Maybe to some. The American manufacturing sector is often spoken of as if it were ancient history. But actually, this country still makes (and exports) nearly as much as it ever did. The difference is we no longer make consumer goods, and fewer people work in factories because of advances in industrial technology. Still, high-tech firms here in Saugerties like SDC, Precision Flow and Markertek are thriving, employing hundreds of local people.
Automobile sales have remained strong, despite the Big 3’s near-death experience of two years ago. Retail in Saugerties may be the strongest it’s been since IBM pulled out of Ulster County. Though still quaint, the village is now a little hip, thanks to the proliferation of funky boutiques. Though it’s not as well known as Woodstock, Saugerties has benefited from the infusion of day-trippers and second-homeowners from New York City. This will continue.
Sen. John McCain famously declared the fundamentals of the U.S. economy “sound” on the day Lehman Brothers collapsed. Though not wishing to tempt fate, I’d venture make that same declaration for our local economy. As publisher Geddy Sveikauskas observed in these pages two weeks ago, “I have the instinct that Saugerties is going to be one of the Ulster County communities that will emerge first from the present profound economic malaise. Why? Not because Saugerties is one of those fancy college towns with a newfangled business incubator churning out high-tech knowledge-based and Web-related jobs. Precisely the opposite. As it always has, Saugerties will continue to attract the humble entrepreneurial manufacturing and service firms that have the potential to grow from a handful of jobs – or just one – to something much larger.”
I would add to that my own prediction that in the coming years, the influence of New York City’s economic prosperity on our local economy will become more profound as communications make it easier for people to work remotely, and the cost-of-living increases drive workers out of the city and beyond the well-heeled suburbs. The trends are clear: urban areas, especially New York and San Francisco, will continue to grow, while regions like the Rest Belt and Western New York remain stagnant.
For this to really work, the federal government needs to invest in infrastructure: broadband Internet and high-speed rail. China, Europe and Japan are doing it. Why can’t we? Let’s start on the Eastern Seaboard, from D.C. to Boston, and see if we can’t get a line up the Hudson, too.