Your editorial regarding the North Country Regional Economic Development Council was on the mark in terms of noting the need for a distinct conversation regarding the unique economic needs within the Adirondack Park. However, it was premature in that it came ahead of the full story.
The North Country Chamber has been joined with other economic interests in the region in highlighting the findings of the Adirondack Park Regional Assessment and stressing the fact that past state economic development strategies such as Empire Zones have largely been unhelpful in the Adirondacks as they have tended to stress such things as manufacturing and larger job counts. We have continuously advocated for the development of a strategy tailored to the Adirondack Park, citing a sense of urgency given some of the troubling findings of APRAP in terms of community and economic sustainability in many Adirondack areas.
The Governor's region-by-region approach finally provides an opportunity to address the different challenges and opportunities in all areas of the North Country, including the Adirondacks, and he is to be applauded for this sea change in how the state will determine and support economic development.
And while the council covers the broader North Country region for many practical reasons, the first Regional Council meeting on August 5th included two things of relevance to this topic:
First, it was explicitly noted that the North Country actually consists of four sub-regions, the Adirondack Park being one. And the final plan must take note of the assets and opportunities in all four areas, seeing that all are included and then knitted together in a comprehensive strategy.
Secondly, a specific Adirondack Park sub-group is being created and will be headed by Bill Farber, Chair of the Hamilton County Board of Supervisors and a recognized leader in advocating for Adirondack interests. It is hoped that this group will become a cross-regional group, something specifically encouraged in the Governor's plans, bringing in voices from those portions of the park which are in the Capital and Mohawk Valley regions. This actually creates an opportunity for Adirondack needs and issues to be heard not only through one regional council but three, which could prove advantageous.
And we see this Adirondack Park sub-group carrying on as a working group well beyond the initial creation of a first set of plans later this year, and becoming an on-going vehicle for strategic conversations, recommendations and advocacy.
The council's working groups and other efforts will be quickly unfolding in the coming weeks, with an extremely challenging timetable that requires full completion of a five-year strategy by November that can then be competitive with the submissions from the nine other regions. And there will be a number of opportunities announced for input, including an envisioned forum in the central Adirondacks among other sessions and other means for active exchange.
Onward and upward!
Garry Douglas, Co-Chair, North Country Regional Council