Jeremy Cooney, who is a 27-year-old, third-year student at Albany Law School– grew up in Rochester, NY was appointed in January 2009 to the Young Leaders Congress, which has 17 members.  He concedes that reviving the state’s economy is beyond the group’s scope, but adds that it can push for programs that will make upstate a better place for the young to live. “The best we can do is push issues forward,” he said. “Then it’s out of our hands. It’s up to state government.”

State economic development officials are moving to reinvigorate the effort at combating upstate brain drain launched by former first lady Silda Wall Spitzer.   The Economic State Development Corporation says it will partner with Young Leaders Congress, a group first assembled by Spitzer as part of her “I Live New York” initiative.

Now, ESDC says it will help bring some of the group’s ideas to fruition, such as the launch of a Web site with upstate job listings; a program that will help start young professional groups; and a grant program for efforts deemed likely to combat brain drain. The agency, however, was vague on precisely how it will provide help: “ESD’s role is to manage and facilitate the programmatic aspect on behalf of the governor and the state,” said spokesperson Katie Krawczyk in an e-mailed statement.

Still, members of the Young Leaders Congress said they are relieved by the show of support, especially after a long delay that made them wonder whether state backing for efforts to combat the drain of upstate’s best and brightest would continue. They also said that putting anti-brain drain efforts in ESDC hands makes sense, because economic issues are a leading reason the young leave New York and because the agency might be able to stick with programs over time.

Sociologists and economists debate why many young people leave places like upstate New York, and have questioned whether the outflow from New York is higher than in other parts of the country. The economist Richard Florida, now a professor at the University of Toronto, notes in his research that the young have always been drawn to big cities, and says today’s youth place particular emphasis on living in creative, diverse and interesting cities.

But few doubt that the sagging economy in much of upstate New York causes many younger residents to leave. “It’s coming down to jobs, and it’s coming down to educational opportunities, and it’s coming down to debt payments,” said Jeremy Cooney,  he continued to say: “They’ve got $100,000 in debt, and they say, ‘I have to take that job in Philadelphia because I can’t wait 30 years to pay this off.'”  Source: Times Union