At 4.2 percent, the unemployment rate in Orange County is now below the pre-recession level of 4.3 percent from 2007, and below the state’s unemployment rate of 4.9 percent.
That is likely due to the number of jobs that are being created in the Hudson Valley and Orange County, particularly in the sectors of construction, manufacturing, transportation, and health care.
Some of these industries are expanding in parallel with each other, like the health care industry that is providing construction jobs in the short term, and opportunities in the health care field in the long term.
Orange Regional Medical Center (ORMC) in Wallkill just expanded its campus with a 153,000-square-foot outpatient building and a 26,000-square-foot cancer center that opened Sept. 26. Crystal Run Healthcare is putting the finishing touches on a two-story, 70,000-square-foot building in Monroe, which is not far from a new Urgent Care center ORMC opened on 17M earlier this month.
Bon Secours Charity Health System is planning a redesign of the interior of its hospital in Port Jervis, and hopes to one day expand outside the hospital as well.
Crystal Run also opened a new location in Newburgh last July and another in West Nyack in Rockland County in August.
Crystal Run spokesman Mark Trocino said their expansion is due to the growth in the region, the increasing demand for specialized medical care, and said they hope to have 1,000 physicians in their system in the next five years.
The third floor of ORMC’s new outpatient building is dedicated to the Orange Regional Medical Group (ORMG), a mix of physicians and specialists. Planning for growth, ORMC plans to open up another two floors in the building when the group expands.
“There certainly is a need for advanced health care in our area,” said Rob Lee, a spokesman for the Greater Hudson Valley Health System that Orange Regional is a part of. “We have a big county and it can be difficult on patients to have to travel out of the area for care.”
The health care industry isn’t the only one experiencing a boom. Tourism has increased significantly in the last few years, which is reflected in the seven hotels that are currently being built in the county and the 30 percent increase in the hotel and motel occupancy tax over last year, up from a 3.7 percent increase the year before.
This is no coincidence given the aggressive marketing campaign the county has done to get people to visit the county.
The county’s Tourism Department paid Focus Media, an advertising and PR firm in Goshen, over $500,000 to put ads on TV, radio, CBS New York’s website, TripAdvisor, Facebook, YouTube, and targeted ads using Google AdWords.
With all the emphasis the county is now putting on tourism, Susan Hawvermale, the director if the county’s Department of Tourism, wants to hire another full-time employee just to do trade shows.
“We have all the world-class destinations that money can buy,” she said. “We just need to make sure that we’re out there telling people.”
With the development of Amy’s Kitchen, an organic food manufacturing plant that is set to come to Goshen, and the talk of the amusement park Legoland, also in the Planning Board stages, other businesses are starting to take interest in the county as well, said Maureen Halahan, CEO and president of the Orange County Partnership, the development arm of the county.
“Every time we announce a new project, it peaks the curiosity of other companies that are considering expansion,” she said.
She is particularly proud of some large pharmaceutical companies that are moving to the county.
McKesson Pharmaceutical, a supplier of branded, generic, and over-the-counter pharmaceuticals, will open a 340,000-square-foot facility in Hamptonburgh next spring, creating an estimated 160 jobs.
AmerisourceBergen, a pharmaceutical sourcing and distribution company, is slated to open a facility in the Town of Newburgh, also next spring, creating an estimated 120 jobs.
What was going to be the Kikkerfrosch brewery in the Village of Goshen is now a shovel-ready site, as is the old Camp La Guardia property in the towns of Chester and Blooming Grove that used to be a New York City shelter for homeless men.
In addition, the county is hoping to sell some 425 properties it obtained through tax foreclosure “that are sitting off the tax rolls,” said County Executive Steven Neuhaus at a press conference.
Neuhaus said he expects traffic at the county airports to increase with some new carriers expanding or coming to Stewart International Airport in New Windsor. The vision, he said, is to make Stewart a destination airport that overseas tourists will fly into for a visit to Legoland or the county’s other attractions.
“If things go right, you’ll hear us announcing foreign airlines, name brand airlines that want to come into Stewart because of the saturation of the big three down there [in New York City]: Newark, JFK, and LaGuardia,” he said.
This was the idea the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey had when it bought the airport in 2007, but little has been done since then to make it a viable alternative to the other three. Public transportation has been a problem, and Neuhaus said it’s unlikely that light rail, which they considered putting in, would be too expensive.
Nonetheless, the federal government has been investing in Orange County’s airports, giving them over $1.8 million for development and safety projects.
At the beginning of the month, the Orange County Airport in Montgomery received $65,160 to meet Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) safety standards.
In mid-September, Randall Airport in the Town of Wallkill got $119, 230 for infrastructure projects, and Stewart was awarded $1.7 million for a new hangar.
“In the next two months, Stewart Airport is really going to take off,” Neuhaus predicted.
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