PLATTSBURGH - The Adirondack Young Professionals, a group which "seeks to create networking opportunities for young professionals in the North Country," hosted its second annual Economic Development and Talent Retention Forum at Olive Ridley's Feb. 11. During the forum, several issues were discussed among a panel of elected officials and community leaders, including what can be done to attract and retain young professionals in the region.
Susan E. Matton, vice president of economic development for the Plattsburgh-North Country Chamber of Commerce, stated her belief in the importance of economic development, a sentiment echoed by her fellow panelists throughout the evening. While other parts of the country are struggling with the national recession, the North Country has been somewhat sheltered from the economic storm because of its understanding of the importance of continued economic development, she said.
"Our economy here has held strong," said Matton. "That gives us job opportunities and keeps young professionals like you here."
Plattsburgh Town Supervisor Bernard C. Bassett, who also served as a panelist said it was up to local governments to collaborate to make opportunities for economic development available. Those opportunities, he added, ultimately equate to more jobs and more people - including young professionals - locating to the area.
"We need to share and continue to share services and resources," said Bassett. "We're not just competing with Vermont and Franklin County or Albany or New York City for crying out loud, we're competing globally. We're poised for incredible growth but we need to continue investing in infrastructure."
Another panelist, Victoria Zinser Duley, economic development specialist with the Technical Assistance Center at the State University of New York at Plattsburgh, said she was pleased with how the region's strengths, such as educational and recreational opportunities, were discussed. However, she also liked how areas thought to need improvement, such as social gathering spots and arts and cultural opportunities, were also highlighted.
"It is really important that the public sector and economic developers work with the numerous local nonprofits to move toward filling those gaps," said Duley.
Members of the younger generations, commonly referred to as the Generation Xers and Millennials, make up the majority of the current and future workforce, said Duley, and demand interesting communities.
"They've indicated that diverse, attractive opportunities outside of the workplace are at least as important as their jobs," she said.
Michael S. Cashman, president of the ADKYP board of directors, said he was pleased with the turnout for the event. The forum has become the signature event for the growing group, with both board and community members looking forward to it in the months leading up to the event. Having a frank, open discussion about the strengths and weaknesses of the area will help alleviate some of the latter, he added.
"The forum is just one opportunity to put just some of the topics important to our community under the microscope," said Cashman.
"One of the great things I see is certainly this organization is a great tool to get younger people into this area," said panelist Hope L. Coryer, president of ETS, a locally-owned and operated staffing and consulting firm. "Events like this are important to have."