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Updated: Dec 5, 2023

Wrinkle Paper

By Garry Douglas

It should come as no surprise that there are real shifts underway in the global and national economy, and that some of these must become factors in our regional economic development strategies and approaches.

The transition to a “clean energy” economy is fully underway. And while most other areas are trying to figure out how they can benefit, we are way ahead of the game. The diverse and growing cluster of transportation equipment manufacturers we have developed over the last twenty years is placing us right at the front of this shift as we are now emerging as a national and international center for the production of electric transport equipment — including buses by Nova and trains by Alstom along with a whole array of components. Our recent highly successful Quebec-New York Transportation Rendezvous really spotlighted our area’s strategic role in this transition and we and our partners will continue our focus on maximizing this economic opportunity.

Site selection is now more squarely focused on ready locations than ever before. Business is moving faster and so are the decisions around where to locate, invest and expand. Thanks to partners like TDC, which is an absolute model for industrial site development in micropolitan areas, we are more aligned with this shift than most similar regions. The days are largely gone when you can get a commitment to a site that isn’t ready and then take a year or two to prepare it for a willing prospect.

At a minimum, sites must be fully shovel ready with full infrastructure and a speedy and supportive permitting process. Better yet, an area needs developers like TDC willing to build out actual turnkey facilities.

Late last year, in the run-up to the 2022-23 State Budget, we joined with several other regional economic development partners across the state and the New York State Economic Development Council in securing the support of Governor Kathy Hochul for a major new dedicated fund to create shovel ready/market ready sites. Our Assemblyman, Billy Jones, then led the way in sponsoring action to grow this funding initiative even further coming out of the gate. We are on top of this trend and even playing an active statewide role in support of the state resource shift needed.

On the logistical front, supply chain challenges (as well as steeply rising transport costs) are causing further desires that supplies be closer. This is opening the door to attracting more small manufacturers from Canada in particular who are serving the U.S. market, as well as a likely resurgence in cross-border warehousing and distribution.

And in the needed attraction of not only companies and investment, but of people and talent, younger people in particular are increasingly attracted, not only to the traditional draw of salaries and careers, but to quality of life. And this increasingly includes not only the usual elements such as good and affordable housing and good schools, but a sense of a community that is caring and inclusive, and of employers who have supportive HR cultures and internal green policies and practices.

It is positive that most of our area manufacturers and other employers are reflecting these values, and that we as an area are looking at such possibilities as the attraction and support of more immigrants and refugees to provide more of the diversity and fresh talent we have frankly missed since the U.S. Air Force departed.

Much to be aware of and much to do. But we are positioned better than most similar micropolitan regions and are READY TO MOVE ONWARD AND UPWARD!

Garry Douglas is president of the North Country Chamber of Commerce.

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