If I were asked to describe the one characteristic or talent our area has proven itself to possess most strongly in the pursuit of economic development, it would be CONNECTING THE DOTS.
All areas pursue and implement projects which support their economies, but usually as ends in and of themselves rather than as elements of any multi-piece, over-arching aim. A new bridge that enhances traffic. An airport project that moves more people. A school facility that will allow more programs.
Increasingly, more areas now have a sense of connecting at least a couple of dots with their project, such as links between workforce training and strategies related to job growth.
But our area has been especially adept at seeing how multiple dots connect with one another in a chain of projects and investments aimed at a bigger picture overall. Take one example of a string of such connections:
A $170 million Port of Excellence at the Champlain/Lacolle border crossing enhances cross border movement and supply chain connections. This facilitates Canadian and other international investment here. It also allows for the successful development of Plattsburgh International Airport as “Montreal’s U.S. Airport”. Our readiness to host and attract new forms of manufacturing supports and is supported by training investments such as the Institute for Advanced Manufacturing at Clinton Community College as well as PAI and other advances at CV-TEC. This, in turn, allows stronger connections with Clarkson University going forward. And more.
We have correctly seen the repositioning of a regional economy in terms of a continual series of interconnected “dots” that each help lead to further connections. And the initial map of dots will never be finite if the connections continue to be made. New dots and connections will emerge, such as the implications of Norsk Titanium which, in turn, was made possible by the existing dots and connections that generated a diverse transportation equipment and aerospace cluster with workforce training supports and efficient linkage with Montreal.
Several major dots are now substantially under development, requiring concerted support and focus to maximize their power to build off past achievements and to position us for the next advances. The $10 million Downtown Revitalization Initiative must go well beyond traditional downtown enhancements to move the larger items forward that will, in turn, create a vibrant downtown that will retain and attract talent and reinforce our attraction of investment to the region. The $38 million State Airport Grant must create the platform for aerospace and economic development at Plattsburgh International, enhancing the growth of our Transportation Equipment & Aerospace cluster. The Institute for Advanced Manufacturing must not be an end, but a beginning in innovative and flexible new programs with new partners such as Clarkson, creating a strong future for Clinton Community College and supporting our recent and future successes in manufacturing attraction.
Dots and their connections. Creating an ultimate whole that is increasingly greater than the sum of the parts through reinforcing interconnection. Our Plattsburgh- North Country economic and workforce developers and officials get this, which is why many good things are happening and many more are possible.