Chautauqua County is estimated to have lost another 1 percent of its population at the end of 2012, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
While that loss is not a dramatic number - 1,396 people brings the county's estimated 2012 population to 133,539 - it is part of a disturbing decades-long trend. The county's population also continues to age, with the population of county residents age 65 and over climbing 1.3 percent over the past 12 years to 17.3 percent. The state average is 14.1 percent. As we wrote recently, the jobs picture has been far from rosy over that same time frame.
All are signs that, despite the number of jobs that should come open in coming years, more must be done to provide attractive career opportunities in Chautauqua County. Lack of opportunity is one of the reasons young people often roll up their high school diplomas or college degrees and go elsewhere. Government can help by lowering taxes and decreasing job-killing regulations to make New York more attractive to business, areas in which we are largely stuck in neutral.
We aren't doing so hot when it comes to attracting jobs to Chautauqua County, either. There are some success stories - Empire Specialty Cheese locating in the former AFA Foods building in Ashville is one - but such enthusiasm is tempered by news of job losses in the north county and the recent announcement that Premier Lakewood Inc. will close its doors in May, costing 75 people their jobs.
Maybe that is why it's refreshing to hear Strategic Planning and Partnerships Commission members admit they, too, have struggled with job creation tasks begun more than five years ago. They plan to refocus their efforts, starting with a visit by Russ Linden, a consultant who has worked with the commission in the past, to discuss ways to attract business.
At the same time, County Executive Vince Horrigan has said he wants reach out to existing businesses and look for ways to locate spin-off businesses locally or help local companies consolidate supply chains in the area. Economic development officials have spent the last year touting ways StartUp New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo's plan to allow certain businesses to locate tax-free in areas surrounding SUNY campuses, might bring more jobs to the local economy.
It took us decades for New York and, by extension, Chautauqua County to create the mess they are in. It will surely take more than a year to dig ourselves out. Wouldn't it be nice, though, to look at those Census numbers in a few years and see some good news?