July 20, 2012

In My Opinion: ANCA backs Douglas


---- — It has been reported in the media that principals of the Adirondack Recreational Trail Advocates have called for Garry Douglas’s removal as co-chair of the North Country Regional Economic Development Council because of his steady support for the renovation and reuse of rail infrastructure along the Adirondack Railroad Corridor.

As president of the Adirondack North Country Association, I am writing to express full support for Mr. Douglas and for his continuing role as co-chair of the Regional Council.

I have known Garry Douglas for more than 20 years and respect him as a tireless advocate for the economic improvement of Plattsburgh and the broader North Country region. He is a man with a strong understanding of economic- and community-development issues and opportunities in Upstate New York. And he is an objective analyst who consistently works to define the often complex sequence of actions necessary to succeed over the long term.

This has been clearly demonstrated in the many initiatives in which he has been involved, which have led to the economic resurgence of Plattsburgh.  

Garry’s appointment by Gov. Cuomo as co-chair of the Regional Council was a smart move. His leadership of the council, along with Co-Chair Tony Collins, president of Clarkson University, created one of the top four winning economic-development plans in the state, bringing an unprecedented $103.2 million to the seven-county North Country economic-development region.

In his leadership role with the chamber, Garry was an important partner in the successful, mixed-use redevelopment of the former Plattsburgh Air Force Base and the creation of the international airport, which is now used by more than 150,000 passengers annually.

Garry has also led the effort for construction of the Port of Excellence at the Champlain/Lacolle border crossing connecting New York to Quebec, eliminating truck delays and fostering the growth of tourism; the development of the Quebec-New York Corridor; and, signing of an agreement with the Federation des chambres de Commerce du Quebec to work cooperatively to maximize economic opportunities in both Quebec and New York.

His long-standing advocacy for rail-infrastructure improvements across the North Country, including the Adirondack Railroad, has been shared and endorsed by the full membership of the Regional Economic Development Council.

In November, as part of the $103.2 million awarded to the North Country, a request for $9.5 million in state funding to revitalize the 44-mile Newton Falls rail line serving Newton Falls in St. Lawrence County was approved. This initiative is critical to the economic future of the Clifton-Fine community and the success of its anchor employer, Newton Falls Fine Papers. 

Another success to the south is the Saratoga & North Creek Railway, which continues to expand passenger service to meet increasing demand, now running three trains a day, seven days a week.

As just reported in the Press-Republican, the Saratoga & North Creek Railway has also recently received federal approval to reopen the Tahawus Line between North Creek and Newcomb’s Tahawus hamlet to begin transporting previously mined rare-earth minerals.

In its reporting on this on July 5, the Wall Street Journal said: “A railroad company is renovating rusty, overgrown tracks to get at millions of tons of waste rock at an abandoned iron and titanium mine near the source of New York’s Hudson River and the highest peaks of the Adirondacks, part of a widespread resurgence of short line and regional freight lines. The planned reopening of a 30-mile rail link is being driven by high oil prices that make rail shipping more economical than trucking.”

Garry Douglas is a visionary and relentless supporter of the North Country’s economic vitality.  We applaud his efforts and look forward to his continued contributions to an improved North Country economy.     

Stephen M. Erman is president of the Adirondack North Country Association, based in Saranac Lake.