Syracuse may be the snowiest city in the country, but it's easy to warm to its charms. Parents find it's a great place to raise a family, and young professionals enjoy its comfortable mix of urban and outdoor attractions.
One of Syracuse's most appealing features is its bottom line: You get a lot of bang for your buck in this town. According to Money magazine's 1997 Best Places Survey, a $50,000 salary in Syracuse goes as far as $96,000 in Boston or $98,000 in Manhattan. The survey also shows that Syracuse has the best air quality of any medium-sized city in the Northeast, the third lowest residential real estate prices, and the sixth lowest cost of living.
Commuting time is a major asset as well. The average commute to a Syracuse job is 19 minutes. "You can live in more exotic placeslike Silicon Valleybut you're going to drive an hour and a half to work. You're going to spend a lot of time alone on the highway," cautions SU Chancellor Kenneth A. Shaw.
"I call Syracuse a '20-minute city.' That's the longest it takes to get anywhereto work, sporting and arts events, good restaurants," notes John Vasselli, director of corporate development at the Syracuse Research Corporation. "I've lived in Washington, D.C., where it can take three hours to get across town. The manageable size of Syracuse is one reason many of us are happy living here."
More than 23,000 Syracuse University alumni currently call Syracuse home. "It's sometimes hard to convince people to live here," Shaw admits. "But it's harder to get them to leave."
Ironically, all this high-tech growth accentuates a nationwide problem that's beginning to hit Central New York hard: a growing shortage of high-tech professionals, especially in engineering and information technology.
"In 1992, we had our highest unemployment rate on record-7.4 percent," says Roger Evans, principal economist with the New York State Department of Labor in Syracuse. "Today our unemployment rate is 3.3 percent. It has never been lower. We very quickly went from crying about high unemployment to crying about labor shortages."
When Syracuse lost about 15 percent of its manufacturing jobs, it also lost 12,000 workers to other areas of the country. "But the larger issue is a mismatch of skills," Evans explains. "The jobs that are open today require a different skill set. The message that this was a depressed economy was never true for people with skills. There have always been good-paying jobs here in technology, health care, insurance, and other service areas. But there have not always been good-paying jobs for people who could weld."
Just as they team up to bring jobs to Syracuse, local business leaders are collaborating to bring new talent to town. "That's a smart move," says Anne Messenger, president of Messenger Associates Inc., a local human resources consulting firm. "The greatest challenge nationwide is attracting educated employees. The companies paying attention are investing much more in recruitment and retention."
In Syracuse, the high-tech industry alone anticipates 2,000 job vacancies within the next three years. A consortium of high-tech companies recently launched the da Vinci Project, a visionary recruitment effort to attract engineers via the World Wide Web. "Statistics show that in 1997, 10 percent of recruitment nationwide took place on the web. In 1999, that figure will be up to 30 percent," says Tom Mushow, chairman of the project's steering committee.
Instead of stealing engineers from one another, the 27 high-tech companies in the da Vinci Project are joining forces and recruiting from outside the region. Their web site not only posts jobs, it documents the high quality of lifeand strong sense of optimismin Central New York. According to a Price Waterhouse study, 90 percent of technical firms in upstate New York had more confidence in their prospects in 1997 than in 1996.
Online since January 1998, the da Vinci Project has already netted 38 engineers-and created an exciting network among high-tech human resources directors. "We've raised more than a half-million dollars to launch and market the site. Now we're working on a program for spouse recruitment, because that's often an issue for candidates looking at our area," Mushow says. "The da Vinci Project requires a lot of meetings and a real commitment from its members. But we consider it a huge success."