Chamber Wise – A New Year and an Updated Agenda

Each year, the board and management staff of the North Country Chamber engage in a Strategic Planning Retreat, assessing our progress over the past year, looking at changing needs and opportuni- ties, and developing refined strategies and a comprehensive business plan for the year ahead. This year’s retreat was held in Lake Placid in November, with our friend and partner Howard Zemsky, presi- dent of Empire State Development, speaking at the opening dinner.

Over the next full day, we had sessions devoted to Government Affairs, looking at key issues in Washington and Albany in 2016; to Workforce Development, with a panel discussion involving sev- eral of our partners helping to frame some of the priorities we must focus on; to the Regional Economic Development Council and its “IMPACT” plan for strategic action and investment over the next five years, and to Small Business, including revitalization of our SCORE chapter and other heightened small business support efforts. For the first time, we were pleased to welcome two repre- sentatives from each of our fifteen Partner Chambers for part of the day’s discussions, something which will be a regular feature in the years to come.

In preparing for the great work and opportunities ahead, we paused to recognize what we believe our “core strengths” are so that we will value these and look for ways to sustain and expand upon them:

  • Regionalism. A core commitment that grew from the lessons of losing Plattsburgh Air Force Base.
  • Our unique model of advocacy, and of relationship building and management in Washington and Albany.
  • Our established commitment to strategic economy building: Vision plus Time and Perseverance.

We also affirmed our key “power centers” as:

  • Expertise, as in our expertise in cross border matters.
  • Connectivity, as in our effective political relationships.
  • Reputation for strategy, as in our ability to see or find the best ways forward.
  • In terms of our plan of work and priorities for 2016, they now stand as follows:

1. HUMAN CAPITAL: Not only meeting our changing and growing need for workforce and skills, but grasping opportunities to use our future successes to attract new talent and residents, thereby “trans- forming” the size and character of our workforce pool.
2. QUEBEC-NEW YORK: Continually broadening, deepening, broadening, deepening.
3. GOVERNMENT AFFAIRS: Staying relevant and effective, and punching above the North Country’s weight, particularly on regional issues and projects.
4. PLATTSBURGH INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT: Moving firmly towards achievement of the “international” dimension of our air- port and towards the ultimate development of aerospace and air industrial activity in the Plattsburgh region.
5. REGIONALISM: The framework for all else. This must include steady and determined implementation of the Regional Economic Development Council’s vision and strategies, and sustaining and building our very special and powerful network of partners both within the region and outside.
With firm commitment to this framework, we foresee a very solid year of progress and advancement for the North Country business community and economy in the year just ahead.

ONWARD and UPWARD in 2016 and BEYOND!

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