LAKE PLACID - U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand hosted an economic roundtable in Lake Placid July 9.
New York's junior senator heard from more than 30 regional officials representing both public and private interests. The first-term Democrat, who was appointed to the seat by Gov. David A. Paterson, told the small crowd Washington's agenda is wholly-focused on job creation and economic development.
"Everything we're doing right now is about jobs," she said.
Infrastructure topped the list of concerns for local officials like Wilmington Town Supervisor Randy Preston, who told Gillibrand the Whiteface Memorial Highway is falling into disrepair and needs immediate attention.
"[The Olympic Regional Development Authority} operates the Whiteface Mountain Veterans Memorial Highway," Preston told Gillibrand. "It was started by Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1931 when he was governor, and completed and opened in 1935 when he was president."
"To us, it is truly a local, state and national treasure," he added. "Because of the severe budget cuts there has been with ORDA, its current state is uncertain."
Joe Martens is chairman of the board of directors for the ORDA. He, too, told Gillibrand state cuts to ORDA's budget put the region's economy in a perilous situation.
"The amount of activity that ORDA generates annually is $350 million regionally, based on what has been as much as an $8 million state investment," Martens said.
"Now, we're down to about $4.5 million," he added. "ORDA is one of the best economic development programs in New York, because from the small investment were pumping tons of money into the area. Any help you could give us would be great."
Gillibrand told gatherers she and her staff would do whatever was necessary to help facilitate infrastructure concerns.
The senator was joined by Republican state Sen. Betty Little and Republican Assemblywoman Teresa Sayward.
Little told WNBZ that maintaining venues like those run by ORDA is critical to maintaining the North Country's fiscal solvency - especially as the state wrestles with a nearly $10 billion deficit.
"In recent years, we've had many investments in improving the venues and we don't want to see that go for naught," Little said. "There are wonderful programs and attractions that we can get, but the venues need to be kept in top shape."
"The convention center is back on track, and it's so exciting to come up here. I think Kirsten gets that feeling, too," she added.
And, while Little stressed the importance of maintaining venues, Sayward notes that infrastructure, like water and sewer systems, should be a top priority for local officials.
"Our communities, even though we have few people, have a lot of aging infrastructure," she said. "The cost of rebuilding it is critical. We can't grow jobs; we can't bring people in if we don't have the infrastructure to support it, whether it's parking, water or sewer."