Joanne K. Dahlen

Job Title: Director of Marketing and Business Development, The Development Corporation
Hometown: Pound Ridge, New York Family: Husband: Kjell Dahlen
Education: B.A., Hollins College
Community Involvement: CVPH Medical Center Advisory Board, Saranac River Trail Greenway Board of Directors, Vice President and Treasurer of the Friends of Saranac River Trail Inc., President Elect of Sunrise Rotary (Paul Harris Fellow in 2014), SUNY’s School of Business and Economics Mentoring Program, Board of Trade of Metropolitan Montreal, the
Industrial Asset Management Council (IAMC), the New York State Economic
Development Council (NYSEDC), the Adirondack Mountain Club, and
Trout Unlimited

With 20 years of experience in marketing and advertising at the biggest names in the business on Madison Avenue and Wall Street, Joanne Dahlen never imagined she’d permanently relocate to an upstate micropolitan with a river running through it. Lured here six years ago by the incredible eco- nomic development potential, Dahlen and TDC have helped lead a strong current of direct investment into our community that is truly changing the game for the North Country. Now firmly a part of all aspects of upstate life, Dahlen almost can’t believe the unlimited access she has to her favorite recreational activities. An avid fly fisher, she dreams of one day catching a trout at the mouth of the Saranac River in Plattsburgh. It’s a modest dream, and most would agree highly achievable, especially for a woman who has perfected her fly fishing technique all over the world in places like Alaska, Chile, Argentina, Venezuela, New Zealand, Russia, and Mongolia.

SB: What has been a highlight of your work with The Development Corp.?
JD: The “Made in Clinton County” series that we developed in partnership with Mountain Lake PBS. It’s a series of vignettes that appeared in Mountain Lake Journal profiling the successful companies that are here. It’s a cool example of one project in the community that can work so hard for us. It ended up having many legs that then carried into workforce development and as educational pieces to let students better understand professional opportunities that are here in their own backyard as well as what skill sets they need to be able to have those kinds of jobs.
SB: How important is it for TDC to maintain connections with community-supported organizations like PBS and local school districts?
JD: It’s huge because the workforce and workforce development is such an enormous part of economic development and direct investment in the community. You have to have a pipeline. It’s about educating parents, teachers, guidance counselors, and students about the interesting opportunities available in manufacturing and advanced manufacturing. In terms of salaries and professional growth, people don’t necessarily think of manufacturing jobs as aspirational opportunities, and it’s not just in our region, it’s manufacturing in general.
SB: What advice would you offer to someone starting his or her business career?
JD: Be open-minded about job opportunities and take the time to really understand how to market your unique skill sets and life experiences – these are your DNA and should be the building blocks for selling yourself to the business world.
SB: What inspires you?
JD: This is an incredibly exciting time to be in the North Country and to be in economic development. I am thrilled to be a part of a positive momentum shift in a region that is taking ownership of its future. The economic development potential for this region is an enormous inspiration and moti-vator for me.
SB: I would imagine in this business you don’t see many immediate results?
JD: That is the trouble. The lead-time and sale cycle for economic development and direct investment is crazy. So much so that it’s hard to even find an average. It can be years because so many things can hold up a relocation or expansion to any market and so many things can come into play at the last minute and change the company’s decision. It’s a lot of stopping and starting and with that is the difficulty of trying to keep space available. Our business is based on lease revenue, so timing plays a big role and it’s an ever-changing timetable. We’re juggling multiple prospects, but at the same time we want to make sure first and foremost that the companies that are here have what they need and are not being wooed away by other areas or feeling forced to go somewhere else. There’s a statistic in economic development that 85-plus percent of new job creation comes from companies that are already in a region, so while it makes sense to spend time on attracting new businesses, all regions, including ours, need to make sure that we really spend time and concentrate on helping to support the companies that we have brought here.

SB: What is the role of TDC in supporting a company that is already here?
JD: This has become part of our strategic plan. What we’ve done is create a whole focus on business retention and changing our relationships with the companies that are in our parks from what would be a traditional landlord tenant relationship to a real business partnership where they come to us for needs they may have. We may not have the answers in house, but we have the resources and connections that they probably don’t, whether their needs are related to workforce development or understanding the federal, state and local incentives they may eligible for to support their expansion needs. We provide networking opportunities for them to meet other companies that are in the region that may help them as a supplier and for peer networking. We would like to think that we have that kind of business partnership dialogue and we don’t only talk to them when their lease is about to expire.

SB: What do you believe the North Country community should do today to ensure a prosperous future?
I think that in some ways the North Country has been its own worst enemy — but that is changing. Barriers are breaking and partnerships are forming that will translate into a much stronger sense of community down the road. We need to think and act as a collective partnership and market ourselves as a region within the context of a story that is compelling, unique, real, and believable. We need to be proud and authentic.