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Greater Adirondack Region Economic Development Forum

Best Practices for Economic Development
St. Lawrence Seaway: Shut It Down?

Ocean freighters represent only 5% of St. Lawrence Seaway traffic, and it has been argued the Seaway could be closed to international ships. Despite the loss of jobs at places like the locks and operations center in Massena, closing the Seaway to ocean-going vessels might actually create more jobs (loading and unloading dock jobs, trucking, etc.) while reducing invasive species, according to an interview on North Country Public Radio.

Possible consequences to shutting it down: jobs, carbon emissions, additional road traffic, etc.

Blog update 2/6/10:

An expert panel at the National Academy of Sciences actually reviewed the issue of invasive species in 2008 and concluded that improvements in ballast management practices would be a more appropriate response rather than shutting down the St. Lawrence Seaway to ocean traffic. The full NAS report is here.

While commercial interests and local communities argue to save Seaway jobs in places like Massena that would suffer if the Seaway was shut to ocean traffic, certainly all groups can agree that the Seaway has not created the boon for Seaway communities that was once promised. Here, an Ogdensburg native explains the history and rapid obsolescense of the St. Lawrence Seaway. The limited international shipping in the St. Lawrence Seaway that we see today appears to be due to the container revolution that began right as the St. Lawrence Seaway was being built.

Much of the shipping on the Seaway today is US-Canada shipping of bulk cargo like iron ore and grain, which are cyclical commodity products, instead of container cargo. With much of the world in recession, St. Lawrence Seaway shipping was down 25% in 2009.

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More Ideas on Adirondack Economic Development and Entrepreneurship

In articles 2-4 in his series of 6 articles, Ernest Hohmeyer writes about:

2. The history and future of Adirondack entrepreneurship: a declining opportunity

3. General business trends affecting small businesses: you snooze you lose

4. A laundry list of ideas, the best of which are:

This last idea that he hints at is a unified Adirondacks. With so many different people, organizations, businesses, and agencies all working at cross purposes, has that stymied the region's ability to develop?

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Adirondack Economy Fails Site Selection, Not Diversified, Lacks Scale

Here's a thoughtful and succinct opinion piece on some of the problems facing the Adirondack Park economy. Despite years of community economic planning, Ernest Hohmeyer feels that the region will not measure up during the site selection process for most businesses. Too reliant on government and tourism jobs, the Adirondacks' may also suffer due to lack of sheer size and scale. 

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Snow and Mountain Tourism World Congress Coming April 13-14

The United Nation's World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) and the Andorran Government are hosting the 6th Snow and Mountain Tourism World Congress. In recent years, some 150 delegates from 24 countries linked to snow and mountain tourism have participated. The event is schedule for April 13-14, 2010.

I'm sure the Adirondack tourism industry has a lot in common with many other mountain and snow regions around the world.

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Swiss Alps Tourism Ad

Here's a great entertaining ad that was part of Switzerland's tourism industry's Mountain Cleaners marketing campaign.

Swiss natural resources became world famous in an era long before modern technologies like TV and the Internet. If you look at what their tourism industry does today, one can be certain they're not planning on giving up that incumbent advantage anytime soon.

Switzerland is an interesting model for New York's Adirondack region to study because they have similarly beautiful natural resources. So certainly, it's quite within the realm of possibility to imagine a thriving Adirondack tourism business model as being economically sustainable.

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Micro Loans As Low As $500 Available To Small Businesses in Greater Adirondack Region

The Adirondack Economic Development Corp is looking for more small businesses in the greater Adirondack region to which to lend, even in amounts as low as $500. It has received $750,000 from the US Small Business Administration to make loans and micro loans to small businesses. Applications were up in 2009, due to the economy.

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2010 Empire State Tourism Conference Taking Place in February

The 2010 Empire State Tourism Conference is taking place February 8-10 in Albany, NY. The conference is hosted by the New York State Travel & Vacation Association (NYSTVA).

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Entrepreneurship Classes Spring 2010

As of posting time, it appears there are seats left in Adirondack Community College's Principles of Entrepreneurship class (here's the other section)! No idea if you can still register, but it's worth a try. I believe they have a few other classes on entrepreneurship as well.

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St. Lawrence County Loses BION Project

Massena Town supervisor Joe Gray is asking why St. Lawrence County, agricultural mecca of New York state, lost out on the BION project by dismissing venture capitalists who came to Massena NY. As he puts it, is St. Lawrence County open for business?

While I don't have any details on the business, it looks like a really interesting idea to solve the environmental impacts of livestock waste .

I agree that it's a real tragedy to bypass a project like this. St. Lawrence County should be recruiting this business heavily! 

Apparently a Saint Lawrence County task force was created in 2007 to evaluate BION, but eventually the company decided to look elsewhere in New York because of St. Lawrence County's lackluster interest.

Since this company is still working towards approvals, maybe it's worth investigating this and finding out if they can be recruited back to St. Lawrence County after all? Based on their business plan, I have trouble believing that a renewable energy technology company would itself not know how to find a way to comply with local environmental requirements.

I suspect that the St. Lawrence County task force members that evaluated the project may not have had a lot of prior experience with venture capital and emerging technology projects, though that's purely speculative at this point. 

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Fishing Tournament Produces Big Economic Impact

The 2009 Lake Champlain bass tournaments pulled more than $8 million into the Clinton County economy, according to a recent study by consultants.

What a great business for the greater Adirondack region!

While there are countless regional events and competitions held in the greater Adirondack region, many of these events involve upstate New Yorkers traveling to other upstate New York locations. While the events produce a boon of business for those communities, the net stimulative effect for New York's North Country is minimal because it is all mostly local and regional money being spent.

What differentiates events like the Lake Champlain bass tournament are the out-of-town dollars they bring in, which produce a net stimulative effect to the greater Adirondack region.

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Outdoor Recreational Tourism and Economic Development

On my other blog devoted to New York land and the outdoors, I talk about the potential benefits of a strategic choice to promote outdoor education among New York's children and the long term effects that a strategic choice like that might have on the Adirondack tourism industry.

This is the same marketing strategy that Apple used successfully for years when it gave away or sold at heavily discounted rates to schools, hoping that children that got used to Apple computers as kids would be more likely to buy the computers as adults.

This kind of long term economic development strategy does not pay any immediate payoffs necessarily, but it would be well worth it for the Adirondack region. I'm not sure if No Child Left Inside legistation as has been proposed in the past is a good idea or not. But I like the underlying idea of more outdoor education and what that means for North Country tourism.

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Potsdam Recruits Wireless Jobs to Greater Adirondack Region

Brookfield Renewable Energy, a power provider with hydropower plants near Potsdam, was one of 96 companies saved from Empire Zone decertification in July 2009. Around the same time, the village and town of Potsdam made a deal with Brookfield Renewable Energy to create and fund a Potsdam Growth Fund. Using those funds, Potsdam just announced it was able to fund CVL Wireless LLC, a Canadian wireless company that intends to create jobs in Potsdam. That's great news! Apparently, in addition to Slic Network Solutions' progress, and the county's emphasis on expanding rural broadband Internet access, Potsdam's colleges were a deciding factor in choosing where to locate its U.S. operations.

This has actually become an interesting strategy for promoting economic development that some areas around the country are using. A lot of municipalities have actually used this strategy around the country to attract businesses and create jobs while profiting at the same time.

In St. Lawrence County, we have the Seaway Private Equity Corporation, which operates through CITEC, and it would be interesting to see what kind of work they're doing over there. I'd love to learn more about these folks, as I think there's some great potential for private equity investment as part of a regional economic development strategy if it's done the right way with experienced private equity professionals guiding investment decisions and with political support from state and local government.

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A Low Tech Agriculture Success Story: The Amish

Here's an inspiring story of an Amish food business in Pennsylvania that has rapidly become wildly successful, despite their decidedly low tech traditions. It sounds like he's been very astute in following market demand and capitalizing on it. We have lots of farmers, food producers, and the Amish in the Adirondack North Country. What is he doing that you're not?

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Adirondack Park: Violation of a Social Contract?
NPR has posed an interesting economic development question for Adirondack Park residents. Brian Mann has posited that there exists an unwritten social contract between Adirondack Park residents and New York state.

What New York provides: full payment of taxes by the state, locating state prisons in the Adirondack Park to provide local jobs, and large state investments in Adirondack park tourism attractions.

What New York gets: Strict regulation of Adirondack Park land, both public and private. The economic development strategy of the region must work within these limitations.

So New Yorkers as a whole should have to pay Adirondack-ers since New York saddled them with the Park? My sense is that this poses the issue in an interesting but wrong way. To me, having the Adirondack Park and all that comes with it is a huge benefit to New York and to the people that live in it.

Let's look at it from the real estate perspective in the context of historic districts. There are studies that show that historic districts actually raises property values. I haven't read these studies, but if this is indeed true, my sense is that uncontrolled building and economic development usually results in a hodge podge "look and feel" of an area, whereas people are naturally attracted to thematic consistency. If the theme of an area is attractive in some way, seeing that theme consistently around the region multiples the value. Just take a look at the mountain chalets in Switzerland or the adobe style in Santa Fe New Mexico and I think the value of thematic consistency is self-evident. So Adirondack property values are higher precisely because of all the wilderness that surrounds the private parcels.

Why, then, do we feel this contradiction between economic development and Adirondack protection, even if we know Adirondack protection is good for us as a whole? It turns out it's an economic law that's at work (serious stuff here, like the Law of Thermodynamics). The precise economic principle at work here is Garrett Hardin's "Tragedy of the Commons", where the commons in this case is the overall aesthetic feel of the region. Every property owner in the Adirondack Park has their own interest in breaking out of the bounds of Adirondack regulation. But it is precisely the Adirondack regulation which maintains the overall aesthetic feel of the region. If every property owner and resident sacrifices some of their own individual freedom and lives within the framework of the Adirondack Park regulation, the resulting collective Adirondack aesthetic provides something attractive to tourists and raises the values of neighboring private lands.

So I think the question posed by NPR's Brian Mann is a good provocative question, but one that is a little bit misleading. His implicit social contract between New York and Adirondack residents presumes that having the Adirondack Park is a sacrifice for the region's residents for which they must be paid. If you ask me, I think they're just paying themselves.

How good a job has the greater Adirondack region done to take advantage of the Adirondack aesthetic and pay themselves well? How can the greater Adirondack region do a better job of developing its economy within the context of its strengths? That is the question that this blog hopes to address over time. Stay tuned!

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