Town of Plattsburgh Supervisor Bernie Bassett implored attendees to get involved at the Adirondack Young Professionals sixth annual Economic Forum.
PLATTSBURGH—Attracting young people to the region and keeping them here was more than a talking point at the sixth annual Adirondack Young Professionals Economic Forum.
It was a call to action.
“It’s a work of everybody,” said Leigh Simonette, civic committee co-chair and member of the Adirondack Young Professionals board of directors. “It starts at the grassroots levels and goes all the way up to the politicians.”
A panel of six people who represent businesses and politics in the area were on hand to share their visions, and to respond to questions and comments from the young professionals in attendance.
“Way too often we focus on the here and now and not on a vision for our future,” said Dr. Colin Read, chair of the SUNY Plattsburgh Department of Finance and Economics and owner of the Champlain Wine Company.
Read shared his vision of a Plattsburgh invigorated by the ideas of the young, a place where outdoor activities abound and locally owned businesses thrive.
Fulfilling that vision includes making better use of the waterfront by relocating the sewage treatment plant, closing off the streets around Trinity Park on the weekend to use as vendor space, and the need to have a downtown association in Plattsburgh.
Nothing, he said, should stop these things from becoming reality.
“Don’t look at that sewage treatment plant as something that’s there, look at it as something you want gone,” Read said. “I think more young people are getting involved. You’ve got a voice. There is energy in this town.”
Terry Meron, owner of the Comfort Inn complex in Plattsburgh, added to the slew of forward-thinking ideas, and received applause when he mentioned that the 99-acre City Beach property could become a festival marketplace, complete with restaurants and shops.
He also said that the area’s history could be used to attract visitors.
Those ideas are just his own, though, and Meron implored attendees to help paint a picture of what Plattsburgh can become by getting involved with projects like Destination Master Plan and Vision 2 Action.
“I firmly believe that Plattsburgh has, over many, many years, lacked enough planning in what it should be,” Meron said. “If you take a look at the physical attributes of this community, and the potential for it, it’s within our power to make it better.”
The big picture, he said, is to give visitors so many options that they stay for several days, thus doubling or tripling the amount of money they spend.
“That’s why Disney built four parks to keep people seven days,” Meron said.
Plattsburgh Town Supervisor Bernie Bassett kept the momentum going by citing the presence of several global companies in the region, including Fujitsu Frontech, APG Neuros, Nova Bus and Schluter Systems.
There are more to come, he said, but cautioned that complacency and dependence on government are not the answer.
“We should be optimistic,” Bernie said. “As I look at all of you and see the resource you bring to the community—make it happen. Don’t look to government. Don’t look to us as the sole source. You start it.”
Bassett went on to say that grants are available to help young entrepreneurs.
“If you ask, you might be surprised at what’s there,” Bassett said. “Get aggressive and make it happen. You’ll be surprised what the results are.”
Kim Mannion, a business adviser with the North Country Small Business Development Center, said that the city should be the hub of activity in the region.
One thing that can facilitate that is the reinstatement of an economic development office in the city.
Through that office, a revolving loan fund could be created, which would enable local business owners to apply for financial help for things like repairs.
“The lending requirements oftentimes aren’t quite as strict as a commercial lender, so it’s often easier for folks to get money,” Mannion said.
She also urged everyone to shop locally and embrace the Canadians, who spend a lot of money in the region.
David Coryer, director of sales and recruiting at employment service ETS
“We want to create a community that has stickiness to it for us and anyone who comes here,” Coryer said.
Coryer said that the region’s proximity to New York City and Montreal make it attractive to companies, but that it needs to offer more to keep people around.
Clinton Community College Director of the Center for Community and Workforce Development Paul DeDominicas added that, unlike other areas, business owners in the area support each other,
“The partnerships that happen in this community across organizations are pretty impressive,” DeMoinicas said. “There’s not a lot of territorial positioning. When businesses come into town, you see everybody at the table, and they’re all working together.”