Transformation Ongoing Across Ontario County

News Date: 
11/16/2012

 RBJDAILY.COM NOVEMBER 16,2012

Transformation ongoing

across Ontario County

Population of area tops

108,525 as workforce

expands and strengthens

By ANDREA DECKERT

A quarter-century ago, Ontario County was known as a bedroom community for people employed by Rochester businesses,

particularly Eastman Kodak Co. That has changed, county leaders say, an observation backed by hard data.

"It's an exciting time in Ontario County," said County Administrator John Garvey.  "Things are much different here than

they were years ago."  Garvey-who has served as county administrator since last summer but has worked for

Ontario County for 18 years-said its quality of life and diversity in types of businesses have helped the county grow and thrive.

Ontario County's population has risen froni roughly 95,000 residents in 1990 to an estimated 108,525 in 2011, U.S. census

data show.  A well-educated workforce is a chief asset, Garvey said, noting that 40 percent of county residents hold an associate's degree

or higher.  In a poll conducted by the county, 65 percent of employers said the quality of the workforce was excellent and

the rest said it was good.  Employers give the county high marks for its workforce development programs. Partnering

with Finger Lakes Community College and others, the county offers training programs such as those leading to certificates

in clean-room technologies and advanced manufacturing machining, Garvey said.  The county also had the lowest unemployment

rate in the five-county Rochester metro area, 6.7 percent in September, compared with Monroe County's 8;1 percent.

Statewide, Ontario County had the fourth-lowest jobless rate.  From 2000 to 2010, private non-farm employment grew 7.5 percent.

The county's largest employers include health care organizations like Finger Lakes Health and Thompson Health, plus for-profit and nonprofit

businesses like Wegmans Food Markets Inc., Consteliatioll Brands Inc., Zotos international Inc. and Hobart and William Smith Colleges.

Median household income was $56,468 in the most recent census data, with a poverty rate of 8.7 percent. The numbers for Monroe

County were $51,303 and 13.7 percent.  In addition to job opportunities, a mix of leisure options-from lake activities

to musical performances at the Constellation Brands-Marvin Sands Performing Arts Center-have drawn people to Ontario

County.  Eastview Mall in Victor provides shoppers with stores exclusive to the area and generates a steady stream of sales

tax revenue for the county.  Among other assets, Garvey ·noted FLCC, with locations in the county in Hopewell, Geneva and Canandaigua, and

Hobart and William Smith in Geneva.

The county has the lowest unemployment rate in the five-county Rochester area.

He also pointed to Ontario County's fiber-optic ring. The network of roughly 170 miles of fiber-optic cable is expected to

improve telecommunications and broadband access.

Michael Manikowski, executive director of the Ontario County Office of Economic Development and Industrial Development

Agency, said the single most important economic driver for the county over the past 25 years is the culture of cooperation

and collaboration found there.  In other words, he said, it is the leadership.  "At all levels ... we work together in

collaboration toward an identified goal of providing high-quality economic development for the county," Manikowski said. "It

boils down to leadership in a county where political disputes are rare and cooperation and collaboration reigns."

Other factors encouraging economic development include Ontario County's infrastructure - from interstate highways and railroads

to an airport expansion and growth of its broadband capabilities-and its location. The county also has worked hard to

promote and develop its business base, which helps guard against downturns in the economy.  The county is using a data-focused approach

to chart its course, Garvey said.  "Our eye is on continuing to improve."