It’s not often the Adirondack Park Agency gets good press. Let this be one of those few times.
Media groups — including Denton — tend to use the APA as a convenient punching bag when property rights and economic development seem to take a back seat to environmental concerns. Rightfully so, we should be vigilant watchdogs of state government; however, we should also offer praise when it’s earned.
Therefore, what the APA did for Indian Lake recently should be noted.
In December 2012, APA Special Assistant for Economic Affairs Dan Kelleher released a marketing study to pinpoint which grocery chains are good candidates for Indian Lake (IGA and the Big M). The community has been without a grocery store for more than three years. This was the first such study Kelleher has compiled since joining the Agency in early 2012, and he’s hoping it won’t be his last.
Asked why the APA used its important resources toward this project, we weren’t surprised to hear the same rhetoric we’ve heard for decades, about making sure Adirondack communities are sustainable and great places to live. We’ve heard that answer over and over without much definition for the word “sustainable” when it comes to economic development.
Yet we were impressed by the APA’s approach to this project, and Kelleher did something during his Denton interview that government workers rarely choose to do; he explained something in plain English and with an honest answer:
“We’re not exactly an organization that can go out and recruit new companies to locate to places. But we can give communities the data that they need to go do that themselves.”
The APA is tiny compared to most state agencies with fewer than 60 staffers. So it doesn’t have many resources. In fact, Kelleher is the only person in the Economic Services Unit, and he received help on the Indian Lake marketing study from the two people in the Local Government Services Unit.
So it’s true, they can’t go out and create economic development opportunities for Adirondack communities. That’s never really been the promise, though. What the APA has done well is work with towns and villages on local land use plans and be a cheerleader for economic development, making sure to have a presence at major initiatives and conferences.
But we don’t always see the APA’s economic development results on paper like we do with the Indian Lake Grocer Analysis. This shows in black and white that the APA can work within its mission to help communities help themselves. And one of the greatest tools they can provide is data, spelled out in a market analysis that Indian Lake can include with a business plan.
Using this information, communities, such as Indian Lake, are now empowered to draft proposals to attract business. That means a bigger tax base, more jobs, and improving communities’ chances of becoming sustainable.
So Kelleher is now making his Jerry Maguire plea of “Help me help you.” Communities should contact him (891-4050) if they have ideas for similar marketing studies.
As for the elusive definition of sustainability, we applaud the Saranac Lake-based Adirondack North Country Association (ANCA) for its current effort to draft a North Country Regional Sustainability Plan, which should be complete in the spring. The document will focus on liveable communities, economic development, water and waste management, energy, transportation and working landscapes.
The ANCA website lists the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority’s definition for sustainability:
“Sustainability is living, operating and growing more efficiently, while using fewer resources ... We can also foster communities that have lower costs, more businesses and jobs, and improved quality of life.”
We should note that the ANCA Board president is Steve Erman, Kelleher’s predecessor at the APA, and APA Executive Director Terry Martino is the former executive director at ANCA.
With their help — and the help of many at these organizations — the Adirondack Park just might be headed in the right direction, both environmentally and economically. And, in plain English, Indian Lake could soon have a new grocery store.