Despite its rural roots, Orange County has been among the fastest-growing regions within the New York City Metropolitan Area. The county has experienced strong economic growth since 2000, and its population has grown since then. The strength of the local economy, combined with the county’s high quality of life, has attracted new residents. Jobs have been plentiful, and both unemployment and crime levels remain relatively low. The unemployment rate for the region was 4.1 percent in April 2017, and the crime rate was consistent with the national average.
The county is sure to benefit from the long-planned multimillion-dollar expansion of Stewart International Airport in New Windsor. The New York State Department of Transportation’s $55 million road project aims to ease traffic congestion around the airport. Orange County is also evaluating the development of new distribution and warehousing centers for the increase in cargo capacity at the expanded airport.
The city of Newburgh is planning to develop the waterfront on the Hudson River, which will include more than 200 apartments, retail shops, a marina and a public promenade.
Median household income in Orange County is $71,910, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
Rail and Transit Access
New York has one of the most extensive and one of the oldest transportation infrastructures in the country. Engineering challenges include the complex terrain of the state, and the unique infrastructural issues of New York City brought on by urban crowding. Population expansion of the state has followed the path of the early waterways, first the Hudson River and Mohawk River, then the Erie Canal. In the 19th century, railroads were constructed along the river valleys, followed by the New York State Thruway in the 20th century.
Besides the tremendous impact of construction and opening of the Erie Canal, it would be difficult to discuss the incredible growth and development of New York (a state that increased in population from 1820 to 1900, from 1.4 million people to almost 11 million) without highlighting the role played by railroads. Starting in the 1830s, throughout the length and breadth of the Empire State, railroads large and small tied together city and farm, bringing crops and raw materials toward the cities, and in turn, bringing manufactured goods and summer vacationers out to the country. The list of railroads that operated throughout New York included such prominent carriers as the New York Central, Erie, Long Island, Pennsylvania, New Haven, Lackawanna, Lehigh Valley, Ontario and Western, Delaware and Hudson, Rutland, Boston and Maine, and others. Just about every major and most minor cities in the state were served by one or more railroads.
Today, Norfolk Southern Railway operates approximately 21,000 route miles in 22 states and the District of Columbia. The railway serves major eastern container ports and connects with rail partners in the west, linking customers to markets around the world. Middletown & New Jersey Railroad operates 43 route miles in Orange County, maintains several trainload facilities and is an interchange partner with Norfolk Southern Railway. CSX serves nearly two-thirds of America’s population through a network spanning 23 states. All three of these Orange County rail services are near routes Interstate 84, I-86 and Stewart International Airport.
The Black Dirt Region, in southern Orange County and northern Sussex County, New Jersey, takes its name from the soil left by an ancient glacial lake bottom augmented by decades of flooding of the Wallkill River. The 26,000 acres of muck left over is the largest concentration of such soil in the United States outside the Florida Everglades.
Farmers avoided the area because the rich soil frequently flooded and was poorly drained and used the land for pasturage. Talks began in 1804 about the best way to drain the swampland. The region was eventually used to grow black-dirt onions on the land, producing about 30,000 pounds of onion per acre. Next, farmers in the area began to include lettuce, radishes, potatoes, tomatoes, carrots and sod in their crops.
Today, the region is bustling with agritourism, the blending of tourism and agriculture. Enjoy the many farmers markets that offer an innovative assortment of farm-to-table dining options. Savor the exquisite tastes of local wineries and breweries, including Brotherhood Winery, the oldest winery in the country.
West Point, The United States Military Academy
The United States Military Academy, West Point is the largest employer in Orange County, with more than 3,100 employees.