Albany: Economy

Major Industries and Commercial Activity

State and local governments employ nearly a quarter of the Albany area workforce, a phenomenon that has brought long-term stability to the economy. A network of service industries, especially restaurants and food stores, law firms, and related businesses, has grown up in Albany to serve the needs of government. Area colleges and universities and an extensive healthcare network also play a dominant role in the city's economy. The presence of scientific research facilities has stimulated the growth of the high technology industries that are replacing traditional manufacturing industries.

Technology has, in fact, been targeted as a prime growth industry for Albany. The Austin (TX) American-Statesman declared in 2003 that the city is " . . . laying plans to storm past Austin as a high-tech hot spot." Albany NanoTech, a university-based research facility for nanotechnology that opened in 2003, received a large portion of the $1.4 billion that the state committed toward the establishment of research centers throughout New York. In a deal that was named one of the top economic development projects of 2002 by Site Selection magazine, Albany successfully attracted a new branch research center of Austin-based International Sematech. Later, Tokyo Electron Ltd., one of the world's leading makers of computer chip manufacturing equipment, decided to send researchers to Albany instead of its North American headquarters in Austin, Texas. New York City-based International Business Machines Corp. (IBM) followed suit, moving researchers to Albany.

Albany is home to a number of manufacturers, producing such items as felt products, sporting goods, and beer, but major manufacturing is represented by national companies with divisions located throughout Albany County, including General Electric Company's plastics operation in Selkirk and its silicon plant in Waterford. The sectors of finance, insurance, and real estate enjoy a strong presence in Albany, which is one of the nation's largest banking cities. As the focal point of a six-county greater metropolitan area that encompasses prime East Coast recreational areas, Albany is also affected economically by the tourists who flock to the region each year.

Items and goods produced: machine tools, paper products, felt, athletic equipment, aspirin, brake linings, cement, steel products, electrical equipment, dental products, chemicals

Incentive Programs—New and Existing Businesses

Local programs

The City of Albany's Department of Economic Development and Industrial Development Agency help coordinate incentive packages. Some of these incentives are low interest rate loans, property tax abatements, job training assistance, and tax credits. The Albany County Partnership, a venture between the Albany-Colonie Regional Chamber of Commerce and the Albany County Department of Economic Development, Conservation, and Planning, offers finance programs, loan funds, and assistance funds to qualified businesses seeking to expand, relocate, or retain operations in the region.

State programs

The Empire State Development Corporation, the state agency responsible for promoting economic development in New York State, has programs available to assist businesses that are expanding and creating jobs. Its programs range from direct financing through the Job Development Authority to low-interest subsidies and loan guarantees. Depending on the financing source, funds can be used for building construction, equipment acquisition, building purchases, and working capital. New York state's progressive tax structure combines tax credits, deductions, exemptions, and write-offs to help reduce the tax burden on businesses. State financial incentives available include those offered through the Regional Development Corporation, New York Job Development Authority, Urban Development Corporation, and locations in Economic Development Zones. As the state capital, Albany offers accessibility to information and assistance from legislators and agencies eager to assist companies locating in New York state.

Job training programs

Through the On-The-Job Training program and the Capital Region ReEmployment Center, the Albany-Colonie Regional Chamber of Commerce offers incentives to employers of qualified individuals, including reimbursement for up to 50 percent of a trainee's salary for an approved training period. In addition, prescreening of candidates can be handled by center staff so that a business is presented with only qualified applicants.

Development Projects

Between 1995 and 2005, more than $2 billion was realized in economic development projects in Albany. During 2004 alone, 30 companies committed to investing $49 million and creating 320 new jobs in the city's Empire Zone. The state government also fueled local development, particularly with Albany NanoTech, a university-based research facility for nanotechnology that opened in 2003 and has since attracted such corporate partners as International Sematech, Tokyo Electron Ltd., and International Business Machines Corp. (IBM). Other recently completed projects include the newly constructed Hudson River Way, featuring a pedestrian bridge linking downtown with the new Corning Park. The Palace Theatre received $5.5 million in renovations and improvements by 2004.

One of the largest projects underway is construction of the Albany Convention Center/Hotel complex. This $185 million project, comprised of a 300,000-square-foot convention center attached to a 400-room hotel, is scheduled for completion in the fall of 2006; it is expected to generate $3.2 billion in the local economy and create 1,740 jobs. In December 2004 an advisory committee tapped three existing library facilities, including the main library, be renovated; four new library branches be constructed in local neighborhoods; and a wireless, mobile library branch—a "Cybermobile"—be implemented.

Economic Development Information: City of Albany Department of Economic Development, City Hall, 4th Fl., Albany, NY 12207; telephone (518)434-5192

Commercial Shipping

Albany was named one of the nation's "100 Best Metro Areas for Logistics" by Expansion Management magazine in September 2004. Inland 124 miles from New York City, the Port of Albany's 32-foot channel on the Hudson River admits international oceangoing vessels and serves as an important stop on the barge canal system of the state, ultimately connecting the city with the Atlantic Ocean and the Great Lakes. CIBRO Petroleum maintains a specialized installation, and the port has facilities for molasses storage and a grain elevator. The port is served by three railroads and more than 100 motor freight carriers. The cargo terminal of Albany International Airport serves FedEx, UPS, and DHL carriers. Albany is within overnight trucking distance of 35 of the country's 100 largest retail markets. The city is also the site of Foreign Trade Zone #121, an area where foreign goods bound for international destinations can be temporarily stored without incurring an import duty. The area's global presence is also facilitated by the Capital Region World Trade Center, located in nearby Schenectady, New York.

Labor Force and Employment Outlook

Albany's workforce is highly educated—the public school system is strong, the state university well-regarded. According to the 2000 U.S. Census, 17.2 percent of all residents have obtained a bachelor's degree, and 15.4 percent have achieved a graduate or professional degree. In recent years, the city has rapidly worked to redefine itself as a hub for research and high technology, further fueling the educational profile of its citizens.

The following is a summary of data regarding the Albany metropolitan area labor force, 2004 annual averages.

Size of nonagricultural labor force: 444,100

Number of workers employed in . . .

construction and mining: 17,900

manufacturing: 22,700

trade, transportation and utilities: 79,200

information: 10,900

financial activities: 26,100

professional and business services: 50,600

educational and health services: 78,200

leisure and hospitality: 31,600

other services: 18,400

government: 108,200

Average hourly earnings of production workers in manufacturing: $17.29 (2004; statewide figure)

Unemployment rate: 3.6% (April 2005)

Albany: Economy

Largest employers (2003, Albany County) Number of employees
State of New York 30,762
General Electric Co. 9,000
United States Government 8,092
Albany Medical Center 5,269
St. Peter's Health Care Service 3,388
Northeast Health 3,059
Verizon Communications Inc. 3,000
County of Albany 2,995
Stewart's Ice Cream Co. 2,840
Knolls Atomic Power Laboratory Inc. 2,650

Cost of Living

Because a large portion of property in Albany is tax-exempt, the tax burden on individuals can be onerous. While property taxes have been lowered in recent years, school taxes tend to rise each year. The cost of housing is competitive with other metropolitan areas in the Northeast and is substantially below major areas such as Boston and New York.

The following is a summary of data regarding several key cost of living factors for the Albany area.

2004 ACCRA Average Home Price: Not reported

2004 ACCRA Cost of Living Index: Not reported

State income tax rate: 4%-7.7%

State sales tax rate: 4%

Local income tax rate: None

Local sales tax rate: 4%

Property tax rate: $22.01 per $1,000 of assessed valuation times the tax rate (2004)

Economic Information: Albany-Colonie Region Chamber of Commerce, 107 Washington Ave., Albany, NY 12210; telephone (518)431-1400; fax (518)434-1339