Each year, the North Country Chamber of Commerce engages in a Strategic Planning Retreat and identifies its key Strategic Priorities for the next year. This is in addition to a more comprehensive Business Plan touching on all of our many program areas and activities. The Strategic Priorities are intended to be those areas of endeavor that we believe must command heightened, sustained attention throughout 2018.
# 1 Among our Strategic Priorities in the new year is our QuebecNew York relationship, because its health and vitality remains the single greatest factor in the North Country’s economy and because it remains saddled with uncertainties in the context of the ongoing NAFTA negotiations as well as other bilateral concerns. It is meaningful that we continue to be looked to by the Quebec Government and business community as Quebec’s best friend in the U.S., and we are fully committed to sustained advocacy and solidarity over the coming months, conveying the story of the unique character and power of the U.S.-Canada economic partnership. And in the process, we will further broaden and deepen our connections with our northern neighbors.
# 2 is Workforce Development, recognizing the challenges of a growing manufacturing base in a generally rural region with 4.6 percent unemployment. Among key commitments are the need to maximize the opportunities inherent in the new Institute for Advanced Manufacturing at Clinton Community College, as well as the special programs and capabilities of CV-TEC and other training partners. Also of strategic importance is the continued nurturing of the strong links emerging between our area and Clarkson University.
# 3 is Transportation Equipment & Aerospace. We are committed to building and enhancing the capacity and activity of NAmTrans (North American Center of Excellence for Transportation Equipment), our regional alliance in support of the North Country’s TE&A cluster of more than 40 manufacturers. 2018 will see the deployment of state and federal support funding for the initiative and an emphasis on Human Capital Development. We also remain committed to all required support for Norsk Titanium for full development and success, and the anticipated attraction of similar and associated companies.
# 4 is Political Transition. As we do continually, we will closely monitor developments related to Albany, Washington, and our region, pre-positioning relationships and effectively transitioning working connections with officials, staff, and majorities as needed.
# 5 is Economic Development. Plattsburgh International Airport takes the lead with our continued strong commitment to the development of all aspects of the airport, with an emphasis on full implementation of the $38 million in projects under the Governor’s Upstate Airport Initiative and generally on aviation industrial/economic development at both PBG as well as at the old Clinton County Airport site.
We have also, for the second year, identified Franklin County as a priority target for collaboration behind its new approaches to economic development; committed increased attention to nurturing emerging opportunities for Life Science/Biotech development in our region; recognized the need for special engagement with partners in the new year in connection with the final transition of Pfizer in Rouses Point; maintained our strong commitment to a range of Small Business Support Services; and renewed our commitment to several key regional projects and issues, including in the Adirondacks.
With focused, sustained attention to these strategic priorities, we foresee a good year ahead, even if we experience any potential rough seas around a subject like NAFTA, in which case our strong relationships and positioning will put us in better stead than other border regions while delivering us to the higher level of connection that comes from standing by friends during a time of great concern to them. Happy New Year to all.