Metropolitian statistical areas: an outdated tool for recruiting


A business group in Texas is worried site selectors may no longer take notice. So, too, are the mayors of neighboring cities in Alabama.

Theirs are among the dozens of comments submitted to the U.S. Office of Management and Budget on a proposed change to the composition of metropolitan statistical areas that could result in more than 100 MSAs, as they’re called, losing that designation.

Five MSAs in New York could be affected, including the Glens Falls MSA, which comprises Warren and Washington counties. (The larger Albany-Schenectady-Troy MSA, which includes the core Capital Region counties, is not affected.)

MSAs, which date to 1950, were conceived to give federal agencies “a single set of geographic delineations” on which to compile statistics on the biggest U.S. centers of population and activity, according to the OMB.

They contain a large population “nucleus” and adjacent communities that naturally interact with the urban core; a sibling, the micropolitan statistical area, is similarly structured but has a smaller core.

Updates to MSAs occur periodically, and a committee looking at standards in place since 2010 offered possible changes that OMB posted for public comment in January. The comment period closes next week.

What drew attention this time was the suggestion that the core population benchmark be raised to 100,000 from the longstanding 50,000 – and the OMB’s listing of 144 potentially affected MSAs.

The Alabama mayors, who could see their Auburn-Opelika MSA reclassified as a micropolitan area, urged against the change in letters to the OMB. “Maintaining the area’s status as an urban, metropolitan center for the region is essential … to our ability to continue to recruit workers and industries to the MSA,” one wrote.

To Jim Siplon, though, the MSA as a recruiting tool might be an old construct.

Siplon took over last month as CEO of the Warren County Economic Development Corp. in Glens Falls following an interim stint after the unexpected death last summer of Ed Bartholomew. He had been sitting on the group’s board as an executive with bottler JUST Water, which he helped bring to Glens Falls in 2015.

Siplon, now retired from JUST, said having an MSA designation was not among the considerations JUST had in choosing Glens Falls. Rather, it was the abundance of available water that dovetailed with the company’s mission to produce sustainable, ethically sourced products.

Companies are “looking for fit” in specific areas such as transportation, technology and labor, not a “macro view” driven by MSAs, Siplon said. 

And younger workers are looking for places where they want to live, then pursuing jobs there, rather than following a job to a place, he said.

His group, which helps businesses expand or relocate, touts the “exceptional quality of life” in the Glens Falls area on its website.

“We try to position the area for the economy of today and tomorrow,” he said, not yesterday.

Marlene Kennedy is a freelance columnist. Opinions expressed in her column are her own and not necessarily the newspaper’s. Reach her at [email protected]


Categories: Business

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