Capital Region business leaders weigh in on post-COVID economy

Trepidation, cautious optimism about the shape of the "new normal" in the wake of the pandemic

April 19, 2020

The Daily Gazette recently asked an array of leaders in the business community across six counties what they think employers, consumers and the workforce will need to do when the economy restarts. Below is the response of Ray Gillen, chairman of Metroplex and commissioner of economic development and planning for Schenectady County as published on Sunday, April 19, 2020.

The current health crisis has impacted every business and household here in Schenectady County and around the world. We are in uncharted waters for sure.  

When the crisis hit, the Capital Region had just posted an all-time record level of employment. More jobs were filled than at any time in history.

As the health crisis ebbs with the advent of a vaccine or effective treatments, we must start by building on the essential businesses that stayed open and working during the current crisis. Schenectady County is fortunate that many of our key employers were deemed essential. These firms produce critical energy, defense, infrastructure, warehousing and food/beverage products.

Next, we will need to get the construction sector reopened and as many of these employees as possible working outside and in workplaces that can adjust to less density. We need to be building and renovating to get the economy going again.

Health care and government employees played a key role in helping to sustain us during the Covid crisis. These are important employers in our community and our economy will be in a better position than many other areas due to the strong presence of health care and government workers.

The state is a major employer in Schenectady County along with MVP, Ellis Medicine, Sunnyview and others.   

We also need to thank all of the grocery employees that kept us going during the crisis. Schenectady County is very fortunate to be home to Price Chopper’s headquarters and thousands of front-line grocery jobs. Again, these folks are heroes.

The Capital Region has always been a strong logistics hub.  This  sector stayed strong during the crisis and will only get stronger. The “just in time” logistics system is finished. Gone are the days when companies and the government avoid stocking  inventory. I would expect almost exponential growth in warehousing and logistics and we are well positioned to see job growth here. 

We need to see our colleges and universities, SUNY Schenectady, Union, Clarkson, as well as trade schools such as Modern Welding and the Paul Mitchell School re-open. These are major economic engines in Schenectady County. We don’t think of ourselves as a college town but we should.

And the local tech scene is also crucial. We must make sure that Transfinder, the Jahnel Group and the many software and tech companies in Schenectady County stage a full comeback.

Our arts and entertainment sector is critical. We need to see Proctor and the Rivers Casino & Resort and our hotels and restaurants reopen. This will be pivotal for our economy.  There are thousands of jobs at stake in this industry.

The road back won’t be fast or easy, but Schenectady County will make it back. We have strong county and local leadership in place everywhere you look and a unified economic development team that is structuring deals now that will be ready to roll when the economy is reopened. If you look at past depressions or recessions, Schenectady and the Capital Region have usually fared better than our counterparts. Together, we can do it again.

To read the complete article on the Daily Gazette’s website, click here.

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