Adoré Flynn Kurtz announced her retirement, effective next week, from The Development Corp., after more than 15 years as its leader. Our community is grateful for her contributions to our economic welfare and wishes her well in future pursuits.
This is a good time to reflect on the difference TDC and good economic development have made and can continue to make to our community.
Three groups are most associated with transitioning us from an Air Force-based economy to a vibrant economy able to compete globally. PARC packaged and marketed Plattsburgh Air Force Base property, while the Chamber of Commerce pursued relentlessly any new avenue for prosperity for the North Country.
Meanwhile, The Development Corp. packaged and prepared sites so new commercial prospects could move right in to facilities tailored to their needs.
The private sector doesn't fuel all North Country growth. We also celebrated in and suffered from the vagaries of state government expansion and contraction. But, it is the production of private-sector jobs and output that allows us to trade with other regions and create a sustainable and independent economy. Without the PARC land, TDC site preparation and chamber outreach, we would not be in the position we are.
Certainly, we would not have the Canadian commercial presence that has partially immunized us from the worst of the Great Recession.
However, economic development is far more than planning and site preparation. Without a vision that can be articulated and disseminated, we would end up with a hodge-podge of fit-and-start development with no synergy, cohesion or resilience.
It is understanding our past and imagining our future that provides an economic plan in which one industry feeds another. It is true economic planning that allows us to imagine what a prospect will need, beyond the obvious brick and mortar, so it can thrive here and attract the workforce it needs.
It is also seeing the bigger picture of economic development and understanding the intricacies of our complex economy that allows us to succeed while other communities of lesser sophistication pin their fortune to whatever fly-by-nighter is willing to come to town only so long as government bestows tax breaks upon them.
If we have entrepreneurism, confidence, eloquence and excitement, we can bring jobs and prosperity here. If we also have sophistication, realization, passion and vision, we can keep them here.
TDC and the chamber have demonstrated that an articulate vision and a polished and sophisticated team can make all the difference in attracting to town new industry, like Nova Bus and its associated suppliers, and hopefully someday, Laurentian Aerospace, and its cadre of suppliers.
These associated businesses provide us with many indirect jobs. We should also be measuring, at each turn, just what these direct and indirect jobs will mean to our community, in the additional jobs they induce for the butcher, the baker and the candlestick maker. Such a clear sense of the bigger picture is what can differentiate us from other rural communities that struggle for their very existence.
To paint this big picture, we must realistically assess our strengths and our weaknesses. We must determine the quality of our competition and synergies of our team members, develop a game plan, assess the quality of the ice surface and then, as Garry Douglas quotes Wayne Gretzky, "go where the puck will be." Participation of an entire community is needed.
Our leaders must muster community planning, economic analysis, dogged determination and the ability to package all those elements so prospective commerce can sense the degree of optimism and excitement lurking just below the surface. This is the economic alchemy we need to forge our way in an increasingly competitive world.
I look forward to the new projects and visions that the leadership of the chamber, TDC, elected officials and others will articulate on our behalf. Each of these leaders is our face to the wider economy.
Our future depends on the vision, polish and skills they bring to bear on our behalf.
If these professionals can successfully formulate and enthusiastically implement an ambitious vision in a way that demonstrates excitement and potential to those outside our region, we can offer our children the good fortune we have enjoyed. This is the measure of a sustainable community in a globally competitive world.
Colin Read is the chair of the Department of Economics and Finance at SUNY Plattsburgh. His seventh book, Great Minds in Finance — the Portfolio Theorists, is coming out this month. Continue the discussion at www.pressrepublican.com/0216_read.