PLATTSBURGH - When looking to the future of the North Country, John E. Jablonski finds great promise.
Jablonski, who serves as president of Clinton Community College, began taking a hard look at the region's years ahead following a forum hosted last November by The Development Corporation, an organization focused on enhancing economic development. The "Vision 2040" forum, explained Jablonski, consisted of getting various members of the community together with one specific objective in mind - discussing the future of Clinton County.
"The idea was to take us out of the here and now, dealing with what's occupying our time and energy, and think about the future," said Jablonski.
The forum unveiled what Jablonski called "startling projections" that showed, if following today's current demographic trends, the North Country could face a grim future.
"Based on current trends, in the year 2040, it's believed the North Country would not be able to sustain itself," said Jablonski, "simply because there won't be enough people in the most productive years of their career to sustain the economy and the quality of life here."
The trends, explained Jablonski, are based on lower birth rates being seen today, as well as the number of educated young people leaving the North Country for more metropolitan areas. The latter of the two has come to be referred to as "brain drain," said Jablonski, and is something he feels can be turned around, given a concerted effort of the community.
"We all really have a choice here," said Jablonski. "We can accept what's dealt to us and just go passively along or we can try to change the course to something that's more desirable. If we do, what begins to happen then, is we begin an upward spiral."
The key to turning the ship around, said Jablonski, rests with three main focuses - workforce development, economic development and increasing the quality of life in the region, which he refers to as community development. Having more and more highly-skilled workers - thanks to places like CV-Tec and institutions of higher learning such as Clinton Community College and the State University of New York at Plattsburgh - is something Jablonski feels will enhance economic development for the region.
"The segue from workforce development to economic development is a very natural one," said Jablonski, "because if we continue to demonstrate that we have a ready workforce, an educated workforce, a well-trained workforce especially in these areas of new and emerging technologies, we become, as a region, a more attractive place for companies like Bombardier, NovaBus, Schluter Systems, Georgia Pacific, Akrimax. The list goes on and on."
The fact businesses such as those have already set up shop in the North Country is a promising sign, said Jablonski.
"That leads me to believe those companies saw something in the way of potential here," he said.
Clinton Community College's role in creating a brighter future for the region, he said, is to continue to do what it has done in its more than 40 years of existence - educating students.
"That's what we do," said Jablonski. "It's what [SUNY Chancellor Nancy L. Zimpher] has reffered to as 'The Power of SUNY' ... We educate students in degree and certificate programs many of those are highly-relevant to new and emerging technologies."
The best part, said Jablonski, is that Clinton Community College is already well-known and well-respected for its role as a provider of higher education.
"We're not starting from zero," said Jablonski. "It's not like we're building a community college out of nothing. And, it's not like we're establishing a city or a town or a county or a region. We have a lot of things that are already resources, that if we use them well, can help us to create this brighter future."
"We have no illusion that Clinton Community College is going to transform the community all on its own," he added. "But, we can sure make a large contribution."
For information about Clinton Community College and its course offerings, contact the college's admissions office at 562-4170 or 1-800-552-1160. More information may be found on-line at www.clinton.edu.