When Kodak announced its latest round of mass layoffs yesterday, the company’s hometown newspaper in Rochester gave the news prominent play on its web page — right next to an article reporting that the city “has finally received approval on a $4 million state grant for Rochester’s downtown soccer stadium to complete the luxury suites and press box.”
The juxtaposition of the two stories speaks volumes about what passes for “economic development” across much of upstate New York. While the traditional core of the region’s economic base continues to shrivel and die, civic leaders (in the public and private sectors) chase state government dollars for dubious “downtown” projects.
And the State of New York (which happens to be broke) continues to send out checks to pay for stuff like luxury suites and a press box for a minor league soccer stadium — which is not be confused with Rochester’s publicly funded minor league baseball stadium. By the way, the added amenities at the soccer stadium represent Phase Two of a project into which the state has sunk $23 million, by this account. No word on who will be left in Rochester who can afford a luxury box overlooking a soccer field.
Which is not saying they’re doing it much better at the other end of the Empire State. In fact, the combination of disappearing core industries and government subsidies for sports facilities gives cities like Rochester something in common with the Big Apple.