While things won’t return to normal on New Year’s Eve just because a new year will be upon us, 2021 will certainly be the year when we (hopefully) experience the long-awaited emergence from the worst of the pandemic and see the restoration of more and more normalcy, in part assuming a vaccine and further positivity in terms of the numbers.
Priority #1 early in the new year will be to continue our determined quest to leave no business behind (or as few as possible). And so, we will continue to advocate for a new, comprehensive COVID-19 relief package from Congress sooner rather than later, including the second round of the PPP forgivable loan program that remains crucial to sustaining many of our small businesses past this challenge. We will also continue our advocacy for robust aid to state and local governments and other impacted institutions, including the MTA and transit systems whose stability is important to a region in the rail and bus business, as well as our airports and aviation system.
Continuing to push for a defined way forward on normalization of cross border travel also remains crucial to us, and we welcome the first indications that the U.S. and Canadian governments are finally talking about plans for progress. We will remain an active and engaged voice in both countries, and then will be fully ready with marketing and other plans to re-stimulate cross border travel, visitation and investment as soon as possible.
Broader aims for 2021 will include federal infrastructure investment, including a hoped for multi-year surface transportation bill by fall to replace the current one year extension of the last bill, with robust investment in buses and rail, greatly enhanced federal commitments to broadband and cell service in rural regions and some specific North Country projects such as finalization and funding of a new U.S. border crossing facility for Rouses Point.
Workforce recruitment and training has returned quickly as a key challenge as we grow economically, and a top, immediate priority must be the stability and sustainability of major training assets which have been slammed this past year, including Clinton Community College and its Institute for Advanced Manufacturing and CVES/CV-TEC, among others. Then add the heightened need for more capacity and affordability for child care, something which now has some real national consensus though the right approaches are still unclear.
All of this and more will be firmly tackled on January 1st and beyond. In fact, all of it is already very much the subject of sustained attention and effort. The North Country Chamber will finalize its 2021 priorities and Business Plan in the next few weeks. And we are ready to charge into the new year with renewed determination and strategic thought.
Onward and upward!
Garry Douglas is president of the North Country Chamber of Commerce.