People from Plattsburgh often sell this area short. There is a plenty of be proud of here, and we should spread the word.

You hear people griping all the time: There is nothing to do here, not enough jobs, not enough culture; you have to move to somewhere else if you want an interesting and fulfilled life.

The topic came up recently at a panel discussion sponsored by Clinton Community College and the Development Corp. They got local experts together to talk about characteristics that give a community a competitive advantage. The list was developed in California and has been promoted locally by Paul Grasso of the Workforce Investment Board.

When the discussion got around to attracting potential businesses and professionals to this area and keeping young people from leaving, some interesting points were made.

Lisa VanNatten has the challenging job of recruiting physicians to come work at CVPH Medical Center in Plattsburgh, when they have their pick of spots across the United States. She remarked that we often talk here about Plattsburgh being within an hour of Montreal and Burlington and Lake Placid. But she can't do that; she has to sell Plattsburgh itself, not what it is near. And she finds plenty to herald.

Among the attributes she will talk about are the quality school systems here, a crime rate that is far below many other areas and the lower cost of living. She will then point out the recreational attractions, which include hiking, camping, canoeing, kayaking, skiing, snowboarding, fishing and many more outdoor opportunities. She will talk about the beauty of Lake Champlain and the Adirondack Mountains.

VanNatten, who last year helped CVPH to its most successful recruiting year ever, also has to sell the North Country to what are called "trailing spouses," the husband or wife who will also need to find fulfillment here. It helps, she said, that we have colleges that provide job possibilities, educational opportunities and a more racially diverse population.

Van Natten and panel member Adore Flynn Kurtz, who is president of the Development Corp., also mentioned the importance of having Plattsburgh International Airport available, so people know they have business and vacation connections to other areas. The Press-Republican just heard this week about a family from Albany — which has a much larger and thriving airport — who are driving up to Plattsburgh to fly out to Hilton Head, S.C., for spring break on one of the low-cost direct flights. Kurtz mentioned that having a local newspaper and public-television station based here gives the area status, in the minds of business owners who are scoping out our area.

Another of the panelists at the discussion epitomizes the concept that people here too often sell the North Country short. Joshua Kretzer grew up in Beekmantown, where he graduated from high school, spent a year at college in Rochester, moved to New York City and graduated from the prestigious Fashion Institute of Technology, where he studied interior design. He worked in Manhattan for 10 years, immersed in the culture, bustle and excitement that we all envy. Then, he decided he wanted to move back to the North Country, to be closer to family and a more peaceful pace of life.

He is owner and designer at pod studio in Plattsburgh, where he has created success in an area that people might say would never work here. But he is more than that; Kretzer is involved in the community in many ways, including speaking at the CCC event and an earlier discussion hosted by Adirondack Young Professionals and hosting a benefit bridal show in the summer.

We need people like Kretzer, VanNatten and Kurtz to remind us that we have plenty to promote here, that we don't need to relate it to Montreal or Burlington.

This area can stand on its own.

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