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THE DOWNSTATE New York economy keeps perking along, fueled in large part by the enormous activity of the stock market. The upstate picture is another matter, and while Buffalo-area residents tend to think our less-than-vibrant economy is peculiar only to us, the facts belie that belief.

Rochester, Syracuse, Utica, Schenectady and Binghamton aren't exactly in the midst of a booming economy. Truth is, some upstate places are in worse shape than Erie and Niagara counties, with big job losses and a continuing exodus of residents.

A good many of the answers to why this is true will be disclosed in a Buffalo News series that starts Sunday and continues for seven days. We generally do not approve of series that extend over so many days but the relevance of the material gathered by News Washington Bureau Reporter Jerry Zremski led us to agree that it warranted seven-day exposure.

Upstate: Downbound, as the series is titled, had its genesis in a series The News published last year called Cities on the Skids. Those stories described how the politics of New York State left its cities poorly represented and at the mercy of the Albany power brokers.

Zremski was one of two reporters who researched and wrote the 1997 series and it is he who suggested that we take a deeper look at the upstate economy and compare it with the rest of the nation's so-called Rust Belt.

Given the go-ahead, Zremski launched the project by doing an extensive computer analysis of an enormous amount of federal data. He undertook detailed studies of job growth and population trends. He studied how far and fast upstate's taxes and energy costs have increased. Additionally, he compiled trade data that pinpoints the loss of upstate jobs to foreign nations.

With this material absorbed, it was time for Zremski to see firsthand the results of these trends on people in impacted areas. He spent a month traveling in upstate New York and a week in Florida and Wisconsin. He was accompanied by James P. McCoy, News staff photographer, who shot hundreds of photos and assisted Zremski in finding people to interview.

Zremski interviewed more than 150 people, including Gov. Pataki, and more than a dozen economists and job development experts.

The fine work of Zremski and McCoy was monitored and coordinated by Stan Evans, assistant managing editor for local news. Evans also served as primary editor on all the copy produced.

Following is the lineup on the seven stories in the series:

Sunday -- The depths of the economic decline.

Monday -- Poor leadership, anti-business attitude and huge taxes shut upstate out of the job growth other areas have experienced.

Tuesday -- Outrageous electric utility rates strangle businesses.

Wednesday -- Upstate loses its wealth and talent.

Thursday -- A weaker work force hinders high-tech growth.

Friday -- Foreign trade hurts more than it helps.

Saturday -- How Wisconsin turned itself around.

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