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Optimism is a Force Multiplier

By Garry Douglas

President, North Country Chamber of Commerce

Colin Powell used to describe optimism as a force multiplier.

It is a truism this area has embraced going back to the wholly unexpected closure of Plattsburgh Air Force Base.

Optimism is not a “calculation”— listing pros and cons and deciding whether to be optimistic. It is a state of mind that intellectually chooses optimism, heightening the likelihood of success as well, if needed, as the readiness to positively shift gears in failure.

The optimism of our business community showed strongly recently when our 2024 Issue Survey revealed a Business Confidence Index of 82%, with 60% anticipating growth this year and 22% foreseeing steadiness. This is up from 2023 when 51% expected growth and 19% expected business to be steady for an index of 80%. It is notable that while expressing optimism locally, 48% and 54% are pessimistic about national and state growth respectively.

In addition to an innate resilience that has helped to generate belief that challenges will be overcome, we can point to the very strong return of Canadian visitors and investment in 2023, continued strong employment and low unemployment, growth at many of our area companies, and a sense that our economic development team has the right strategies and capacity for implementation. There’s a sense we will deal with the need to build sustainability for our area institutions, from our hospitals to our colleges, and will weather transitions such as the announced end of Nova Bus operations in early 2025.

As always, though, our business community also pointed to the state and federal matters that are of greatest importance to them.

On the New York State level, the top three priorities are:

1. Addressing workforce shortages in various ways.

2. Increased regional availability of quality, affordable housing.

3. Avoiding new mandates on small business and employers.

On the federal level, the top priorities are:

1. Bringing inflation under control.

2. Optimization of traffic flow at U.S.-Canada border crossings.

3. Enhancing availability of affordable childcare.

4. Increasing legal immigration to help meet workforce needs.

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