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Chamberwise: Looking to the New Year

by Garry Douglas

The North Country Chamber is already at work on the updated Strategic Priorities adopted in December for 2024:

• THE TWO PILLARS: Quebec-New York and Advanced Manufacturing with a continued emphasis on Transportation Equipment & Aerospace.

• HUMAN CAPITAL: An expansion of our diverse commitment to programs and initiatives aimed at helping the region’s employers with their continuing challenges with recruitment and skills.

• GOVERNMENT AFFAIRS: Using our special approach to relationship-driven advocacy in Washington and Albany on behalf of region-specific issues and projects to continue to punch above our weight and support all other objectives.

On the Transportation Equipment front, we were thrown a real curve ball in 2023 by Nova Bus and have recently experienced further curve balls on that front. But our efforts continue on a priority basis to support what can come next, while we continue to work with other prospects attracted by our cluster and support systems. And we will continue to work actively with Clinton County and BETA Technologies on the major new facility at Plattsburgh International Airport strongly funded by Governor Hochul in December.

On the workforce front, we have recently launched a two-year program of On-the-Job Training, thanks to $500,000 secured for us by Congresswoman Elise Stefanik and Senators Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand. And our successful and innovative Welding Training Initiative with Clinton Community College, Alstom will continue, thanks to federal and state support, and collaborations continue with NYSERDA, Verizon, USDA and ANCA, with a few other initiatives under discussion.

On the Quebec-New York front, we are determined to sustain and grow our vital connections, having reached 92% of pre-pandemic visitation levels in 2023. And we will see the first phase of work on a new U.S. border crossing at Rouses Point, a greatly enhanced crossing at Trout River, and some $11 million in needed maintenance work at Champlain, as well as long anticipated design and planning work by Canada for major upgrades at Lacolle.

The Government Affairs front is already seeing active pursuit of our first ever Adirondack Economic Agenda in Albany in concert with the Adirondack Association of Towns & Villages, the Regional Office of Sustainable Tourism (ROOST), the Adirondack Economic Development Corp., and the Lake Champlain-Lake George Regional Planning Board. And our 2024 North Country Economic Development Priorities are on the table in both Albany and Washington.

As with every year, there are some significant challenges, but also some significant opportunities. We are actively engaged in both and will remain so.

Onward and Upward!

Garry Douglas is president of the North Country Chamber of Commerce

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