For at least twenty-seven years, the North Country Chamber’s board and management staff, along with a number of invited guests, had engaged in an annual Strategic Planning Retreat in the fall. Over that period, this process transformed our regional chamber from the old Clinton County version, created a set of economic development principles that guide us to this day, developed an effective new approach to government affairs, placed our organization at the heart of the Quebec-New York relations on all levels, launched an array of special services for small business and manufacturing, and created a strong platform that allowed us to render maximum assistance during the height of the pandemic.

Because of the pandemic, we held no Retreat in 2020, but on November 4-5 of this year we will gather at the new Saranac Waterfront Lodge in Saranac Lake for an opening dinner with a key speaker, followed by a day of presentations and discussions looking ahead to 2022 and beyond. The content is being finalized, but will certainly include these timely topics:

• Reinvigorating the full range of regional connections with Canada generally and with Quebec in particular in the eventual aftermath of the disruptive border restrictions, from tourism to business to supply chains.

• Continuing to develop productive connections with the new administration in Albany while anticipating the political landscape and possibilities of 2022 so that we are — as always — prepared.

Further honing a variety of ways to assist our employers with what will continue to be an on-going workforce availability crunch.

• Being ready to support several company expansions now in the planning stages as well as an expected surge of economic development interest from Quebec once site visits and cross border business travel are fully resumed.

• Continuing to update and refine our small business support services, including our SCORE branch, as well as our on-going commitment to maximize assistance to all regional businesses still in need of help to recover from the last year and a half.

2020 and 2021 did much to build our regional economic partnership as well as the links between our Chamber and thousands of area businesses. We are now ready for 2022 and have every confidence that we will reach new heights as a Chamber and as an economic region in the coming year, coming out of our Saranac Lake Retreat with updated strategies and refreshed commitment.


Garry Douglas is president of the North Country Chamber of Commerce.