2014 economic forecast: A slow recovery for Binghamton economy

By Kelly McCarthy

February 4, 2014 Updated Feb 4, 2014 at 7:20 PM EDT

Binghamton, NY (WBNG Binghamton) Binghamton University and rising home prices are two potential boosts to the economy in an otherwise sluggish year ahead.

That's according to a regional economist who presented his economic forecast Tuesday morning at the Binghamton Club. The Greater Binghamton Chamber of Commerce hosts the event each year.

Experts predict another year of slow growth for the greater Binghamton economy, but the city's service and education sectors are keeping it afloat.

Binghamton University and SUNY Broome were highlighted at the breakfast for their support to the local economy.

"I still point to the University and it's ability to be a catalyst for change," said Gary Keith, Regional Economist for M&T Bank.

Binghamton University adds nearly one billion dollars to the local economy and SUNY Broome kicks in another $290 million each year.

"You really see this incubator growth coming from the schools, the technology schools right here," said Rob Collins, Financial Director from Wilmington Trust Company.
"It's slow, it's on a small scale, but it may be sustainable. So we're a little bit up beat."

Keith said the Binghamton area is behind other upstate cities when it comes to job growth, especially in the manufacturing sector.

"The industrial side is what I would focus on," Keith said, "This is still an area that relies heavily on manufacturing and that has had some pretty tough years the last few years."

Manufacturing jobs in the Binghamton area are down 23 percent since the 2009 recession.

"And as that sector shrinks those folks tend to leave," Keith said, "And I think we have to get to the bottom of that cycle."

Experts said job growth in the service and education sectors have helped the area from falling too far behind, but dependence on manufacturing jobs prevents the area from moving forward

"You need a labor force to grow your economy," Keith said, "People will follow jobs and it's all dependent on what our employers are going to do."

Keith expects national trends such as rising home prices and improving unemployment rates should help the local economy in time.