(WKTV) - The U.S. Conference of Mayors 2014 Economic Forecast ranks the Utica-Rome area last in projected economic growth for 2013-2020 out of 363 communities surveyed nationwide.
Utica-Rome and Binghamton tied for the unsavory distinction, with a projected growth rate in that period of only 1 percent.
"We could dispute whether it's one-percent growth factor over that time or whether it's going to be four, time will tell. I tend to believe it's higher than that, and I tend to believe the marketplace shows it," says Oneida County Executive Anthony Picente Jr.
Picente says that the same economic drivers that are painting brighter pictures of faster growth for communities in the Southwestern U.S. are happening here.
"If you look at the trends that they talk about in the report, about why these other areas are growing, it's the blueprint of why I believe we're growing. It's technology, it's financial, it's health care. Those are three of the largest areas in this county and in this region right now," says Picente. "We have six companies coming up to Quad C, which are world-class technology companies, which are investing not just in New York but in Oneida County, in this same marketplace where people are saying growth is going to be slow."
A silver lining in the report: Unemployment in Utica Rome is expected to shrink each year from 2013-2016, with employment returning to peak levels in 2020.
"While there is always room for improvement, there is no doubt the city of Utica's economy is better now than it was two and a half years ago. ... Once our economic development efforts take full effect and Nano Utica comes to fruition, I am confident the greater Utica area will be ranked much higher," says Utica Mayor Robert Palmieri.
Rome Mayor Joseph Fusco said: "The study seems a bit counter intuitive. It places us at the bottom of the growth scale, yet we are 197th out of 348 in gross metropolitan products, which is projected to be $9.7 billion in 2014.
"We have a great deal of growth in our region, and I am confident that the steady growth will continue. ... We are growing and attracting investors, and we will be successful in finding the new normal for our region."
To read the panel's full report, click here.