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CHAMBERWISE: Another Milestone in a Continuing Journey

Updated: May 6

By Garry Douglas

March 19 was another milestone in the continuing growth and evolution of our North American Center of Excellence for Transportation Equipment (NAmTrans). It was the day of our Third QUEBEC-NEW YORK TRANSPORTATION RENDEZVOUS & B2B, drawing more than 200 transportation equipment and aerospace leaders from all over North America with 200 official on-site B2B meetings. It was definitely one of 2024’s gatherings of the year for transportation equipment manufacturing. And it displayed extraordinary growth from our first Rendezvous in 2019 with 89 participants and from the 2022 gathering with 150.

The NAmTrans journey began in 2015 with a study commissioned by our partners at TDC, recommending formal creation of a “cluster” entity for our growing collection of transportation equipment companies as a strategic means of supporting, sustaining and growing our cluster dynamic. The North Country Chamber was pleased to take on the organizational challenge, taking mentorship from our friends at what was then Quebec’s ground transportation equipment cluster organization, the Pole d’excellence, resulting in a formal Partnership MOU with them and our creation of NAmTrans.

The early focus was on supply chain issues and workforce skills, then growing over time to include information sharing, technical assistance (a strong commitment through the pandemic), international collaborations, and advocacy in Washington and Albany. Early development was ably led by our first NAmTrans Director, Danielle Johnson King, named in 2017, succeeded by Joel Wood in 2019 who has continually fostered momentum. And the initial MOU with the Quebec Pole was quickly followed with a partnership agreement with Aero Montreal, Quebec’s aerospace cluster, and with Propulsion Quebec, centered on their electric transport cluster.

Today, NAmTrans, which has received international recognition for its programs and strategies, stands out in North America as a model cluster entity in a world of economic development where everyone wants to attract and build clusters of one sector or another, but few can succeed — especially a smallish community in a mostly rural region. 

On a constant basis, we are working with our region’s 40+ transportation equipment/aerospace companies on workforce training such as our specialized welding academy; supply chain development, including the pursuit of diversified customers; focused federal and state advocacy on resources and regulations; global connections and outreach; project development as with the upcoming BETA facility; and marketing of our companies and our region, solidifying our area’s firm recognition as a now important international transportation equipment hub.

Our thanks to all of our partners, team members and companies who have helped to get this initiative to where it is after just nine years.

And onward and upward to the challenges and opportunities ahead! 

Garry Douglas is the president of the more than 4,000 member North Country Chamber of Commerce.

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