North Country Community College President Dr. Steve Tyrell and his team should be commended for the most ambitious plans to come out of that institute in many years.
The college, which has campuses in Saranac Lake, Ticonderoga and Malone, just unveiled a five-year plan that Tyrell says could produce up to 100 new jobs and have an economic impact of at least $11 million.
And taxpayers would not be carrying the load, as the plan counts on private investment and state funding (yes, we know, state money comes from taxpayers, but the cost is spread out statewide, lessening the local impact tremendously).
Among the proposals, some of which are already underway:
• Six new curriculums at NCCC to train generations of workers for the new jobs.
• A three-pronged student-housing project in Ticonderoga.
• Buying the vacant Lowe’s building in Ticonderoga to create a School of Applied Technology, with spinoff incubator businesses and industry.
• Launching biotech- and tourism-related curriculum at the Saranac Lake campus, including housing and an incubator concept for small-business development.
• Converting two unused buildings in downtown Malone to develop agriculture-related technologies that provide sustainable energy, including hydroponics, aeroponics and aquaponics.
Tyrell told very receptive Franklin County legislators that private investors are already showing interest. That will likely only grow if Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Start-Up NY initiative, approved by the State Legislature at the end of its session, produces the ballyhooed results.
Start-Up NY would forgive, for 10 years, state taxes for businesses and their employees who locate on or near SUNY campuses. Other incentives are also included, and the program is likely to have developers looking at area campuses in a new light.
Community colleges have an adaptable quality that enables them to create courses that train people specifically for careers available in area businesses. That makes them incredibly valuable to area residents and government leaders. An educated, skilled workforce is essential to the prosperity and growth of every community.
And NCCC’s proposal goes far beyond training, proposing to encourage or develop functioning businesses in Malone, Saranac Lake and Ticonderoga. That would be welcome news in those communities. Saranac Lake, for example, is looking to promote itself as a biotech hub, so the college’s plans would augment that.
Critics will probably call this five-year plan an unfulfillable dream, and it is likely true that not all aspects of it will come to fruition.
But without big vision, you can’t achieve big results. And NCCC is aiming for the sky.