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Chamberwise: Back on the Road

Updated: Apr 23

by Garry Douglas

Nothing is more enjoyable to an old political staffer than walking the halls of our state and national capitols, running into friends and colleagues and having sit-downs with decision makers. In 2023, I was unable to get to Albany, doing my thing from afar by email and Zooms. That only made March 4-6 of this year that much more satisfying, organizing a coalition of five Adirondack economic leaders to engage in the indispensable “face-to-face” approach.

The visit brought together the North Country Chamber, the Adirondack Association of Towns and Villages, ROOST, the Adirondack Economic Development Corp. and the Lake Champlain-Lake George Regional Planning Board, highlighting a first ever joint agenda focused specifically on the Adirondack regional economy. The key areas of that shared agenda are Housing and the unique challenges and required strategies in the Adirondack Park; Broadband/Cell Service and how best to direct major new resources to further close gaps in our area, and Economic and Small Business Development, spotlighting suggested state program enhancements that would increase impacts, plus Workforce, with a couple of initiatives in need of state support.

The access we enjoyed was gratifying, from our North Country legislators to Assembly Economic Development Chair Al Stirpe, Assembly Small Business Chair Carrie Woerner, my good friend Senator Neil Breslin, and Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins’ key policy staff, plus a great sit-down with departing DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos among others. Many follow-ups are actively continuing.

At the end of the day, this Albany collaboration was certainly important for the awareness that was generated. But it was especially important for the first-time union of our five organizations in a common and coordinated voicing of the challenges and needs of the Adirondack economy. It had begun last fall and came together in a special session of the Chamber’s Annual Retreat in Lake Placid in November. It creates a “whole” in terms of advocacy that is greater than the sum of the parts.

Next up: In May, we will once again engage in our annual North Country Days in Washington, selecting representatives of a few timely North Country projects and issues to join in two days of sit-downs with Senators Schumer and Gillibrand, Congresswoman Stefanik, Governor Hochul’s federal affairs staff, and others. And as usual, I expect our delegation to include some of our key Canadian and Quebec partners, reflecting the importance of cross-border economics to us. Onward and upward!

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

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