Last year, New York State was offered a reminder that a massive swath of the state is contained in 12 rural counties between the Canadian border, the Great Lakes, Vermont and Albany. The vast North Country, a region often forgotten as we rebuild Buffalo, celebrate the Finger Lakes and love New York City, is perhaps the most economically diverse and vexing region in the state. It also appears to be the most visionary.
The state was reminded the North Country was on the map when it earned the distinction of creating the best economic plan in the state in 2011. The reward for the hard work of our Regional Economic Development Council, headed by Garry Douglas and Clarkson College President Tony Collins, was one of the largest grants for economic development ever offered a regional entity in this state.
One grand success right out of the box could be considered a fluke. Two must be a pattern.
This year, the council again received nearly $100 million in economic-development funds. On a per-capita basis, I don’t think any region has come close to our success.
Other regions have almost become accustomed to financial attention from Albany. We have spent billions trying to stem the decline of the Buffalo-Niagara region, with only a modicum of success. Our state did so not because it stood an excellent chance of success. Rather, given the historic population base, Albany probably considered it political suicide to do otherwise.
And, there are always the darlings of the state, from the Big Apple to the beautiful vineyards of the Finger Lakes. Every region is warmer than ours, and other regions have a greater proportion of arable cropland, natural gas, abundant wind power, and access to other large states like Ohio, Massachusetts, Connecticut and Pennsylvania.
Other regions have higher population densities and don’t have large shares of land protected by the state.