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Sticking to the Vision Versus the Fads

Updated: Nov 27, 2023

by Garry Douglas

The hardest challenge in economic development — especially for a rural region like ours — is sticking to a long-term strategy with discipline and persistence versus the “strategies du jour” repeatedly generated in many areas and the constant calls to go after the fad of the day. 

It takes 20 to 30 years to significantly reengineer and reposition a regional economy, which requires enormous patience and stick-to-itiveness. We have a new post-Air Force economy that is growing because we made the right choices almost 30 years ago and have avoided distractions. We chose maximization of our Quebec connection coupled with the long-term attraction of a cluster of transportation equipment and aerospace manufacturers, playing off the foundation of winning Bombardier in the mid-1990’s and linking strongly with Quebec and its established strength in these sectors. State support through the years has been important, especially in securing Bombardier (now Alstom) following Base closure and in winning the U.S. operations of Nova Bus. And the sea change by New York State in mainly pursuing economic development via ten distinct regions versus statewide notions helped immensely in furthering the creation of our amazing cluster. Gone were the days when the state proclaimed a few priorities to get most of the attention, whether they were our region’s real opportunities or not.

This regional approach is surviving 13 years after its launch, but the state is slipping back to picking favored sectors. The fads are now chip technologies with Micron and Global Foundries and clean energy. But fortunately for us, we bet on a sector (Transportation Equipment & Aerospace) that has ended up in a crucial role in the transition to a greener economy through electric buses, trains and aircraft. And transportation equipment is also an early adopter of other new technology waves, such as AI and additive manufacturing, bringing connections other areas only hope to create. And even with chips, Norsk Titanium is now in the business of producing titanium components for chip production.We avoided the fads and stuck to long term strategies that are really positioning us strongly. And interestingly, we are even connecting with the current economic development fads thanks to the diverse and dynamic nature of the business we chose to be in.

Onward and upward! Garry Douglas is president of the North Country Chamber of Commerce.

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