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June 2, 2013

Programs bring vitality to downtown

We are experiencing a slow but pronounced revitalization of downtown Plattsburgh. A number of events this summer stand witness to our resiliency and the excitement many still have for rural America.

Before I describe what this summer in downtown Plattsburgh has become, and what it could be, let me describe how we are fortunate and what we have to do to keep it that way.

Our nation has been changing for the last 150 years. Once a nation of farmers, the industrial revolution attracted their sons and daughters to big cities. A century ago, our nation became more urban than rural.

Also a century ago, agriculture represented a quarter of our nation’s output, and the largest share of its workforce. Now, only about 3 percent of our output and workforce are employed in farms that are much larger and more mechanized. Enormous scale, highly mechanized farming has put inexpensive food on our table. It has also stripped opportunity for our young people in rural areas.

Rural America has been bleeding population for generations. It has decimated many communities, but has not taken them all. There are some that are able to develop a mix of agriculture, manufacturing and services. Ours is one of those communities.

We have been fortunate because of the confluence of a rich history, a proud tradition, family roots and a proximity to a ready market in Canada.

Even so, I calculate our county must retain or attract 3,000 families or households by the year 2040. Those we retain are households that would otherwise leave if we do not create a livelihood and a quality of life.

Those who come and those who return are looking with a fresh set of eyes at what could be possible here. Many want to enjoy our natural beauty. However, most also want to experience urban amenities.

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