The Siena College Research Insititute last week released its annual survey of upstate business leaders in New York. 

The findings showed CEOs surveyed hold a bleak view of New York's economy amid rising inflation, a tight labor market, higher borrowing costs and a potential minimum wage increase in the state. 

“It’s impossible to sugarcoat the findings of this survey. CEO confidence is down dramatically from a year ago once again reaching the low point we saw in 2020 and greater now only than during the Great Recession of 2008,” said Siena College Research Institute Director Don Levy. “Only about 1 in 5 CEOs now say conditions have been and will continue to improve while about half say the opposite – conditions have and will continue to worsen.”

The survey found a third of company leaders plan to expand their workforce, down from 44% a year ago while at the same time 82% believe there is not enough properly trained workers. 

And the survey found by a 61% to 5% margin CEOs believe an increase in the upstate minimum wage from $14.20 to $15 would have a negative effect on the economy. 

New York state lawmakers and Gov. Kathy Hochul are weighing a potential minimum wage change in the state budget. Hochul wants to link the  minimum wage to the rate of inflation; lawmakers want to increase the base pay first and then index it to the cost of living. 

New York's economy has struggled to regain the jobs lost in the immediate wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Labor force participation remains at around 60%. 

For now, the Democratic-led Assembly and state Senate are not specifically backing a wage hike to $21.25 in the coming years. Top Democrats in the Legislature hope to reach a resolution in the coming weeks while also coalescing around a final target for the wage floor. 

"We also need to ensure that our state has one uniform minimum wage and should not be subject to exceptions, and that the wage rate for home care workers must remain at least $3 above the minimum wage and rise with the rest of the state," Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie said. "I look forward to working with our partners in government to deliver this pay raise to New York’s workers."

Assembly Minority Leader Will Barclay, who on Friday amplified the Siena College survey, said the results are part and parcel with the accelerated outmigration from the state. 

"Overall, this survey paints a bleak picture; the economy is getting worse and there does not appear to be any end in sight," Barclay said. "If you pair the survey results with the state’s shocking outmigration figures— the state lost more than 400,000 people in the past two years—it is clear something drastic needs to be done."

Not all business owners hold the view that a minimum wage hike would be detrimental to the state's economy. 

Supporters of the wage increase pointed to the backing from small business owners, including Annie Adams, the owner of Second Chic in Buffalo, a consignment business. 

“When workers in our community make more, they are going to spend more at local businesses. It will inject revenues and vitality into our small businesses," Adams said. "I’ve seen firsthand how investing in employees generates business growth. Both of our locations have incredible followings because the team knows the inventory and love to help customers when they are shopping. There is no way we would be able to grow as we have without the dedication of our employees – and the great customer service they provide day after day.”