Holding onto jobs top concern for mid-Hudson Valley residents, study shows
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Mid-Hudson Valley residents are so gloomy about the local economy and employment prospects that their top concern is making sure companies stay in the region, according to a study released Monday.
"We see people who are just battling through the effects of the recessionn, which is why the economy, jobs and keeping business here has become paramount on people's minds," said Lee Miringoff, director of the Marist College Institute for Public Opinion, which conducted the 150-page report titled "Many Voices One Valley."
In an extensive 2012 poll of more than 4,000 mid-Hudson residents, 44 percent named retaining businesses as their No. 1 concern, followed by: creating more jobs; improving public schools; making health care affordable; providing services for seniors; reducing taxes; making the community safer, and making health insurance easier to get.
This latest survey is actually the third update of regional concerns that Marist has done since 2002. In 2007, affordable health care headed the list of major worries, with both health care and the economy identified as top priorities in the 2002 survey.
The information-rich study describes a region where 84 percent of the residents like where they live, with 44 percent anxious about keeping local businesses around.
On the employment front, residents' outlook is bleak, with most feeling that jobs are so hard to come by that 76 percent of those polled said that if someone in their household lost a job, they are pessimistic about the ability to find a comparable new position. About 69 percent added that they are disappointed with the quality of the local job market, with 28 percent noting that they were forced to job hunt since 2007.
The study's findings make sense to Cold Springs resident Glenn Baumler, a local contractor-builder and landlord who described the economy as "terrible" for finding both work and tenants. In January, he bought the four-storefront retail building at 290 Main St. in a foreclosure sale. Since then, he has not had success in renting out the one vacancy.
"People are looking for deals," he explained. "The offers are so ridiculously low that they're not worth entertaining."
But one of his tenants said her life reflects the study's idea of many outlooks and voices. "Dogs have to be groomed, especially certain breeds," said Sherri Urtz, owner of Hudson Hounds, adding, "Business is good, really good. Even I am surprised." Her grooming service charges $50 to wash a blow dry five-pound dogs and up to $100 for a canine customer that is 80 pounds or more.
But as a resident of Putnam Valley, the picture is different. "Our hardware store just closed down," she said. "There's nothing there anymore. People just don't have a lot of money."
Profile of the region
In the mid-Hudson counties -- Dutchess, Orange, Putnam and Ulster -- over the last decade, the survey found that the poor have stayed poor. But, the rich are getting richer. Other finding from the study include:
• About one in every 10 residents lives in a household with an annual income of less than $15,000; 25 percent have an average household income of less than $30,000 per year.
• The percentage of residents with $100,000-plus jobs has grown to 28 percent today from 24 percent in 2007 and 19 percent in 2002.
• The average household size remains at three individuals, unchanged from 2007 while households with children are up slightly to 4.3 percent to 4.2 percent in the two earlier surveys. In 2012, 42 percent of households have at least one child at home and 13 percent live with a child under five years old.
• The under-44 crowd is growing in mid-Hudson, up to 48 percent from 44 percent and 51 percent in 2007 and 2002 respectively.
• Racially, the white population has shrunk to 74 percent from 81 percent in 2002. Black residents have held steady in the seven-to-eight percent range and interviewees who identified themselves as "other" still remain around four percent. But the Latino community has expanded to 13 percent from eight percent a decade ago.
• On the political front, Republican residents have dropped sharply to 29 percent from 33 percent in 2007 and 41 percent in 2003. Meanwhile, mid-Hudson Democrats have been inching up by one percent in each of the earlier surveys to 36 percent today.
How to use the survey
Given the large number of people polled, Miringoff said the study is able to provide not just a regional snapshot but also what's happening county by county. The information is designed for use by community organizations, local government or anyone else who needs research but doesn't have the budget for it. The online version of this study and earlier reports are all posted at www.manyvoicesonevalley.com, which was slated to launch Monday.
The website features separate tabs for each mid-Hudson county, along with topical tabs that break out data on: arts & culture, children & youth, community engagement, demographics, economy, education, environment, health, housing, personal finances, safety, senior citizens and transportation.
"It puts the public's voice at the table of decision makers," said Miringoff. "Community groups will find it useful in trying to document needs for both their planning and programs and for grant proposals as well."
He added that Marist will be holding a forum on Nov. 28 to show how the study can be used. Details have not yet been set.
Between Feb. 9 and March 19, 2012, the survey interviewed 4,443 mid-Hudson Valley residents about their life, work and priorities for the future. Like the two earlier studies, this one was also funded by the Dyson Foundation, a leading Hudson Valley philanthropic group which gives away $20 million every year.