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Defining Our Own Adk “Independence”
July 11, 2014 - Ernest Hohmeyer
As we looked at the future of our Adirondack economy in our last several posts, there were some interesting trends that continue to indicate changes are afoot.
Want to Feel Safe?
It is hard to believe sometimes that change is happening.
Perhaps, it is the security thing.
Despite all the issues and challenges, we feel, by-and-large, safe here.
Branding “Adirondack Safe”
I have thought we should brand the “safeness” of the Adirondacks. I mean, overall, compared to many other places on this earth, it is a fairly stable environment.
There are projects afoot in our local region. When you look at our neighboring Adirondack communities some are doing well, others not so well and many that don't look any different. Despite the fact that many Adirondack communities appear to be largely the same way they were 5 years ago there may be shifting sands beneath us.
In an article by Gary Douglas titled “Community Sustainability – Still a Major Challenge in the Adirondack Park” in the June edition of Strictly Business, he references some interesting figures.
You may remember the 2009 “Adirondack Park Regional Assessment Project” (APRAP) coordinated by the Adirondack Association of Town and Villages (http://aatvny.org).
Overall, it didn’t paint a robust picture of the economic reality of our Adirondack communities.
Apparently, many of these trends continue, according to Douglas’s article. He references a “partial update of the APRAP” that was released in May. The report “focuses on the Parks evolving demographics, helping to affirm that the 2009 projections were not only accurate but perhaps understated.”
One of the most alarming statistics is the continued decline as well as aging of our population which is happening at an “accelerating pace.” Further, “by 2030, it is projected that more than a third of Park residents will be over the age of 60.”
What will this do for an eligible workforce and vital community volunteerism?
If you couple this with the potential ramifications of climate change on our outdoor economy, what will all of this mean as we plan for our future?
You may not believe all of these findings. But if we stop and really look around, we can see changes are occurring.
And not all are negative.
There is hope for our local communities based on several projects and the national economy appears to be slowly rebounding.
Take any trip throughout the Park though, and you may come away with a different feeling. It is almost as if there is a kaleidoscope of time in just a few months. Now you feel activity, hope and the warmth of summer.
Just travel our Adirondack roads though even at the end of October, and it may be a different feeling with many businesses closed and where you are watching out more for the deer than oncoming traffic. It’s not only about losing businesses, there appears to be a disappearing act of fundamental amenities.
It is why I have pined in this latest series on the future of our economy to also investigate some of the new approaches to community development.
Just as we had to change in the 1980’s from searching from big industry to small business, do we now need to move from “community development” to “regional clusters”?
Many of our Adirondack communities are “hamlets” with a population of only several hundred people. They are limited in resources both in terms of money and people – not only to help with these issues but from a labor pool perspective.
Does it make sense to push the agenda for regional clusters? Can destination planning be considered for natural tourism regions like the Tri-lakes?
Can we look beyond tourism as THE instrument and bring together several industries to create “synergies,” whereby we can maximize resources and coordinate various community groups to target our job recruiting efforts?
As is the norm with how you have to operate your own individual business today – it is about linking, networking and combining resources. There is not one of us who has the capacity to market to everyone we should. We need to pick our battles and define our niches and leverage our businesses resources with one another.
We seem to be thinking regionally with tourism. We may need to think the same way with recruiting jobs. It is hard because local leaders are responsible for – local communities. And there is nothing sweeter than having a new business come to your town.
I also believe we know that what helps one town usually helps the neighboring village. But if we had a “regional jobs plan” among several communities, how EACH wins would be spelled out.
Perhaps it’s time to really assess our communities with the thought: we can’t be everything, we can’t do it alone and what can our future be if our definition of community is a “regional sense of place”?
A Defining Effort?
Maybe then we can combine our pennies and throw some real dollars at creating jobs.
As we think about our country with our Independence Day, perhaps we can remember some of our greatest ideals: Americans are innovators, believe in community and are not afraid of a challenge.
As we look at the future of our Adirondack communities we may have one of the greatest challenges in our economic history in front of us. As Americans it is in our blood, “We the People..” are the best resource to solve them – together – just as we created brand new guiding principles over 200 years ago.
We are still young. Looking beyond the norm is what made us great.
Do our community institutions and the way we think about “local development” require that innovation now to make the changes we need?
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