FLI’s Economic Development Work Featured – Hobart and William Smith Colleges \
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FLI’s Economic Development Work Featured

The Rochester Business Journal recently featured the Finger Lakes Institute (FLI) in an article about its “effort to study the relationship between economic growth and the environment.”

“The local economy is shaped by many environmental factors, but particularly by the presence of the Finger Lakes,” said Institute Director Marion Balyszak. “It is the economic engine for the area.”

The article explains the importance of the work the FLI does with economic development representatives in the region.

Provost Teresa Amott discussed the Institute’s economic development initiatives with the author as well. She’s quoted, “The institute has been focused on water quality issues and has gathered data on the health of the lakes. The organization now wants to work with others to keep water quality from being compromised.”

Protective measures on which the Institute wants to educate the public are described, as well as the efforts of Patrick McGuire, professor of economics at the Colleges, toward the development of a database for the Finger Lakes region as well as an economic model “that will estimate the employment and output impacts for specific economic development strategies, relating those outcomes to the environmental results.”

The recent $1 million endowment, to be matched with $2 million in new funding, from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation was also noted in the piece.

The full text follows.


Rochester Business Journal
Study focuses on impact of lakes on economy
Institute sees tax base of region tied closely to the Finger Lakes
Andrea Deckert • February 13, 2008

The Finger Lakes region’s most prominent natural resources – the lakes themselves – play an integral role in economic development, and without them the area’s tax base would be compromised, one local organization says.

The Finger Lakes Institute at Hobart and William Smith Colleges in Geneva is boosting its effort to study the relationship between economic growth and the environment.

Institute director Marion Balyszak said environmental factors contribute to the tax base in many ways, from tourism-related activities to alternative energy resources.

The institute is looking to hire an economic development=environmental program coordinator this year to address such issues. That person will work with local economic development representatives and policy makers, among others, to see how issues such as water quality and land use affect economic development, Balyszak said.

The institute, which was created in 2002 and employs six people full time, serves as a center of environmental research, education and community outreach for the Finger Lakes region.

Teresa Amott, provost at Hobart and William Smith, works closely with the institute. She agrees that the lakes are a key economic development asset for the region.

The institute has been focused on water quality issues and has gathered data on the health of the lakes. The organization now wants to work with others to keep water quality from being compromised, she said.

It plans to focus on educating the general public about the quality of local drinking water and working with policy makers on land use regulations that will maintain waiter quality. The institute also is using geographic information system technology to understand the effects of land use around the lakes.

“Let’s do economic development in a way that won’t undermine this ecological asset,” Amott said.

Protective measures on which the institute wants to educate the public include decreasing toxins and pollutants; buffering lakes from lowland use; maintaining water levels to ensure safe and adequate drinking water, and controlling invasive species, such as zebra mussels, and viruses that kill fish, Balyszak said.

Balyszak said businesses can help to protect water resources with efforts to decrease waste and energy use.

An annual conference the organization holds on the local economy and natural resources is schedule for October.

The institute recently received a $1 million endowment, to be matched with $2 million in new funding, from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. The funding will allow the continuation of lake research, created an endowed professorship of environmental studies, support undergraduate research opportunities, and provide funding to allow high school students to attend summer programs.

Patrick McGuire, professor of economics at the colleges, is working on economic development data showing the relationship between the environment and natural resources. The goal is to develop a database for the Finger Lakes region and construct an economic model that will estimate the employment and output impacts for specific economic development strategies, relating those outcomes to the environmental results, he said.

An economic transition away from traditional manufacturing to more jobs in serves such as health care and education has had a positive effect on natural resources, McGuire said. Green initiatives implemented by manufacturers have helped as well.

He cited the wine industry as an example of a local industry having a positive environmental impact while spurring economic growth.

“This is not the traditional (economic) development of the past, but it has become very important to the region” McGuire said.