The North Country Chamber’s board and management staff, along with a number of special guests for specific sessions, recently conducted its Annual Strategic Planning Retreat, assessing progress and refining and updating objectives for the year ahead.
Among our key priorities will be two major items where we will need to be in what I would call a “positive defense” mode:
> U.S.-CANADA: Defending our U.S.-Canadian economic relationship (the single greatest driving force in the North Country economy) in the context of a bi-partisan assault on notions of “trade.” We must aggressively differentiate the U.S.-Canada dynamic, which involves growing integration as we produce things together, from current negativity toward multi-lateral trade platforms and the issues associated with China and Mexico. We are already strategizing with our partners in Quebec and expect to lead a delegation to Washington early in 2017.
> STATE ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT: Defending the continuation of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s innovative new approaches to upstate economic development, including the Regional Economic Development Council system, the public-private partnership strategies around new technologies through SUNY Polytechnic, and START-UP NY which has fostered unprecedented attention and curiosity from Canada and elsewhere. Recent indictments for alleged wrongdoing associated with contract awards cannot be allowed to become an excuse for undermining historically impactful economic development strategies. But make no mistake. Many state legislators want to call for “reforms” that are actually agendas for undermining each of these initiatives. We must help to defend the approaches that have finally allowed the North Country to chart its own course, have brought more than $400 million in new state investment behind our identified regional priorities, and have brought us the $125 million SUNY Poly project that will house Norsk Titanium. Our North Country state legislators understand all of this, but many of their colleagues do not.
Other key aims and priorities for the new year will include:
POLITICAL TRANSITION: Successfully transitioning productive working relationships with new officials and staff, in Washington, Albany and regionally. This process of outreach and connectivity began well ahead of the election and is now in final stages, just awaiting some outcomes such as staff appointments early in the new year.
TRANSPORTATION EQUIPMENT & AEROSPACE: Including the successful full development of Norsk, the launch of new support programs for this growing cluster through our NAmTrans initiative, maximization of the potential for the new Institute of Advanced Manufacturing at Clinton Community College, and further advancement of our aerospace opportunities.
Including a heightened commitment with Clinton County to economic development at Plattsburgh International Airport and at the old airport property; active support for new and updated approaches to economic development in Franklin County; preparations for the anticipated final transition of the Pfizer site in Rouses Point; and a number of specific projects and prospects now in play.
QUEBEC-NEW YORK: Continuing in 17 a multiplicity of ways to maximize our existing cross border partnerships, while always endeavoring to constantly broaden and deepen the North Country’s economic connections with Quebec.
Our full plan for 2017 also values our small business support services, the implementation of another aggressive Tourism Marketing and Development Plan by our Adirondack Coast Visitors Bureau, and the achievement of reaccreditation of the North Country Chamber by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce at our current 5-Star level. The latter reaccreditation process is required every five years and we are one of less than 1 percent of chambers in the country to be accredited at the top level of programming and performance.
So, we have a very full agenda, carrying a lot of importance to the future of the North Country. But as always, it’s