Jobs Make Orange County Go ‘Round

OC Executive Steve Neuhaus sees quality jobs for young people as the key to prosperity
By Yvonne Marcotte
Yvonne Marcotte
Yvonne Marcotte
May 24, 2015 Updated: May 24, 2015

Orange County is planning to win the best jobs possible for its residents, especially its high school and college graduates.

Jobs are key to the county’s economic success, according to County Executive Steve Neuhaus. The population is skewed toward millennials and Gen-Xers, with more young people in the population than the older generation.

The county has been holding its own when compared to 2014 national indicators, according to Sperling’s At 5.20 percent, county unemployment was a full percentage point below the national average.

Neuhaus pledged 1,000 jobs in 1,000 days and he said he’s already surpassed that goal.

Taxes, both sales and income, are higher than national average, while individual and household incomes are also higher. The family median income rounds out to $85,500 compared to a national median income of about $65,500.

Neuhaus recently discussed his goals for keeping the county’s younger residents in the county by offering well-paying jobs their parents would be proud of.

Neuhaus sees the way to keep young people in the county is to provide career-oriented education based in the county. Neuhaus himself attended Woodbury High School, Mount Saint Mary College, and Marist College.

The county has one of the top nursing schools in the country and Neuhaus wants more. “We are toying with the idea of a dental school, toying with the idea of a school of pharmacy. I think we’ll have a dental school, and the first thing we’ll have is a master’s program there.”

Health Care and Engineering

The county needs to prepare jobs for the over 100,000 people under 18 who want to get good jobs. Neuhaus concluded that health care and engineering are industries that could offer sustainable careers.

Although only 4.07 percent of working people in the county are engaged in the engineering area at present, and health care occupations constitute about 8.07 percent of jobs, Neuhaus said these are industries that offer well-paying occupations.

Medical facilities are expanding in the county and opening up new opportunities for job seekers. Crystal Run Healthcare and Horizon provides primary and specialized care for county residents. Neuhaus said, “Crystal Run in itself is adding about 500 new employees in the next 18 to 24 months: about 400 nurses, LPNs, radiology technicians. All jobs you want your daughter or son to have.”

Neuhaus supports Orange Regional Medical Center’s recent $30 million expansion. “Other hospitals in the state have been on the ropes. They’re contemplating cutting services so I think that’s a positive trend not only for the care of my people who live here but for the jobs in the future.”

Health care and engineering are industries that could offer sustainable careers.

According to the Orange County Partnership, the county repurposed two other hospitals to build the first new medical center in the state in more than 25 years. The former Horton Hospital in Middletown was transformed into the Touro College of Osteopathic Medicine. Starting in 2016, graduates will begin residencies at Orange Regional Medical Center.  

The OC Partnership website states, “For the first time in Orange County’s history specialists and primary care givers are receiving their education in our own backyard. With the opening of a Touro College campus in the City of Middletown our county and region will benefit from a dramatically increased number of doctors who train and remain in the Hudson Valley.”

Middletown Mayor Joe DeStefano said, “This economic engine will create more than 1,000 new jobs.”  

At its 2013 annual event, the Orange County Partnership presented Touro College with its Quality of Life Award for its excellence in leadership involving enhancement of life in Orange County. 

High tech jobs are a prize goal in economic development. Higher incomes create stable futures for local residents, and create an incentive for young people to stay here in Orange County.

Pratt & Whitney and companies at Stewart Airport may be the driving force for engineering jobs.

Aerospace manufacturer Pratt & Whitney’s 10-year-old facilities in Wallkill created more than 100 high-tech jobs. With experience gained in applying paint to industrial specifications, they were able to carefully enter the Military Specification (MIL-SPEC) market. The company is building a third site to make parts for the Air Force’s new F35 Raptor.

Neuhaus commends the company’s approach to keeping employees. “They prefer to take entry level people and train them.”

Stewart International Airport holds promise for graduates interested in engineering careers. Operated by the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey, this regional airport with space larger than LaGuardia and Newark combined is considered to be New York City’s fourth airport. Neuhaus said the airport is building a successful cargo business. A trucking service gearing up at the airport plans to hire veterans as truckers.

County Employment

Last year the county employed 2,400 employees. After a substantial cost-cutting effort, today there are 300 fewer employees via an early retirement incentive. Neuhaus said “cutting $30 million is my biggest achievement, the biggest single cut in county history with no layoffs. That, to me, is a big heavy lifting.”

Neuhaus pledged 1,000 jobs in 1,000 days and he said he’s already surpassed that goal.

His game plan to continue attracting more quality jobs means that Neuhaus gets directly involved. “I’ve taken a hands-on forward leaning approach.”