7 lessons learned from the Laurentian deal

The magnitude of the Laurentian Aerospace deal unveiled on Friday is still sinking in.  A slow ramp-up of 900 high paying jobs.

The potential for a growing cluster of support companies, growing up around Laurentian’s airliner maintenance facility.

Promising next-generation jobs for North Country workers.  The list of positives goes on and on.

So what do we know about how this project came together?  And can this success be replicated in other communities?  Here are some first thoughts.

1.  Teamwork matters.  Plattsburgh managed to achieve a remarkable level of unity and message discipline around this project.  When the Laurentian deal seemed to be unraveling in 2008, no one panicked.  No one started sniping or second-guessing.  Doubtless there were feuds and tensions and doubts behind the scenes.  Too many North Country towns and cities let that ugly stuff eclipse the goal.

2.  The politicians behaved themselves.  There is a huge temptation in deals like this to push the clock, hurrying deals forward before they’re ready.  This nearly happened with Laurentian in 2006.  In the years that followed, however, elected officials let the business-people take the lead.  Rep. Bill Owens joked on Friday that he wished this announcement had come before election day.  But his patience, and the patience of other politicians, appears to have paid off.

3.  Public investment matters.  Laurentian’s leaders acknowledged repeatedly that this project would never have come together without the Clinton County Industrial Development Agency and the state’s Empire program.  North Country communities need to make sure that they have investment dollars ready on hand when the right projects come along.

4.  Canada matters.  The simple truth is that Canada’s economy is more robust than New York’s.  From Plattsburgh to Watertown, we need to be finding ways to make our communities more available and welcoming, to investors from north of the border, and to companies wanting to do business in Canada.  Last month, a New Jersey pharmaceutical company announced that it was bringing 100  high-paying jobs to Massena, because of the proximity of Canadian markets.  More of that, please.

5.  The North Country’s cities are booming.  A lot of North Country towns and villages are struggling.  So it’s easy to forget that our three “big” cities — Plattsburgh, Glens Falls and Watertown — are thriving, at least when contrasted with other parts of Upstate New York.  Each has very different assets and characters, which is a good thing.  It may be time to consider better mass transit that can transport more of our rural workers to these urban-centric jobs.

6.  The Adirondack Park Agency needs to study this deal.  By all accounts, the massive Laurentian project was permitted quickly, with great coordination between various governmental agencies.  The APA needs to sort out how to think more nimbly about similarly large projects inside the blue line.  The Adirondack Club and Resort project in Tupper Lake has dragged on for years.  That’s not entirely the APA’s fault, and the Adirondacks pose a far more complex regulatory environment.  But there’s no reason the permitting process in the Park can’t be more innovative and efficient.

7.  Garry Douglas really is that good.  Douglas heads the Plattsburgh North Country Chamber of Commerce.  And yes, the Laurentian deal involved a lot of people, a lot of different organizations and companies.  But it is remarkable the number of big wins Douglas has engineered in recent years.  From Bombardier to Novabus to the build-out of the Plattsburgh airport, he’s played a key role time and again.  Anyone in Albany thinking about revitalizing Upstate New York should be talking to Douglas.

I’m sure there are plenty of other takeaways from this deal.   What do you think?  Is this a sign that the recession is slowly easing?  A model for a new North Country prosperity?

Are local leaders in your community being as smart and focused as those in Plattsburgh?  Comments welcome.

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9 Comments on “7 lessons learned from the Laurentian deal”

  1. phahn50 says:

    all good

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  2. Paul says:

    Brian, there you go again blaming the APA for all the economic woes of the Adirondacks!

    Just kidding, these are good lessons. I don’t know who Garry Douglas is but from my experience the biggest factor in any deal is always the people. The wealthy and connected individuals that live in the Adirondacks (at least part of the year) probably prefer to close their gate and keep economic development far away. That leaves the leg work to folks without connections and without a clue.

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  3. jeff says:

    With three family members holding Airframe and Powerplant licenses working for big airlines or manufacturers I really have to think this is a pipe dream. Where is the price advantage? The airlines have cut benefits and wages. It was a low wage carrier that crashed in Buffalo a couple of years ago. Low wages do not necessarily equal low skill.

    The Asian and Brazilian and Mexican labor is cheaper. Many heavies are ovehauled overseas-even planes that don’t have routes there. I hope the translators get the repair manuals properly translated. After all we’ve seen lead in venetian blinds and melamine in milk. Who checks the quality of overseas service?

    I’m not critiquing the folks trying to help Clinton County. Don’t celebrate too soon Destiny USA has not done a thing in 18 months and contractors are owed millions. The concept was wild regardless of the economic downturn. I question the economics.

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  4. Paul says:

    The ongoing argument about zoning issues in the Adirondacks (whether the APA, DEC or others) is an interesting one. I think that even if folks are right that these rules are no less strict than anywhere else we still have a problem. In order to attract development to such an economically isolated place we really need to roll out the red carpet. Business Parks in the less than attractive areas with pre- approvals just won’t cut it. Instead of a “this is what you cannot do” method they need to switch to a “this is what you CAN do” method. Same rules, just a different approach. Either way it will (hopefully) result in MORE development in the Adirondacks. That is something that is strongly opposed by many groups and individuals. I still think that economic development in the heart of Adirondacks (as opposed to places like in Plattsburg) will hinge on tourist related development. This will cause even more tension as we try and focus development in what some see as “sensitive areas” that should not be developed.

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  5. dbw says:

    It all sounds good. Perhaps Jeff is right to be skeptical. How does a business like this fare in an age of expensive or scarce fossil fuels? Since 9/11 the airline industry has been one step away from downsizing or nationalization. It won’t take much for it to go over the edge.

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  6. mervel says:

    I think there are indeed some good takeaways listed. Particularly looking at proximity to Canada.

    Ogdensburg is also a city.

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  7. scratchy says:

    “Ogdensburg is also a city.”

    But it’s not thriving. Maybe that will change, hopefully.

    Sorry, but I’m not convinced that Laurentian is a sure thing.

    Another thing, did anyone hear how Glens Falls metro area (though it’s a stretch to call it a metro area) has the lowest crime rate of any metro area in the nation? And Colonie (an Albany suburb) has the lowest crime rate of any city in the nation? Yet none of this never gets reported on. Aside from chronic fiscal ineptitude by our state lawmakers, widespread pessimissm is the biggest problem facing the area & state, in my view. The area has a lot to offer in terms of outdoors activities, good public schools, and proximity to Canada.

    I really think the Adirondacks should look at the Finger Lakes and make wineries a major industry. It will attract tourists & is a specialty product that can be exported across the world. Of course, you have to have access to capital to start a winery.

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  8. NOACRINTL says:

    I agree with most of what is mentioned here but Brian please get real about ACR in TL, if anyone wants to call something a Pipe Dream that would be it. Building a resort in a town when others are failing or changing hands especially in the worst real estate recession in modern history, why keep pushing that agenda. The park agency has every right to drag it’s feet and be skeptical about carving up 6000 acres of park wilderness to build 600 homes when in fact they may sit empty for decades… Take a look around Mirror Lake plenty of high end 2nd homes still for sale in Placid what makes anyone think TL is going to be any different other than Foxman, Lawson or LaValley the most who stand to benefit off this stinky deal…

    Just one response to the person regarding scarcity of petrol, this development at PBG if anything will save domestic and possibly some foreign carriers in Canada and in Western Europe significant money in fuel based on where they currently go. Furthermore the time savings alone advertised on Laurentian’s Website is another reason costs will be competitive with those mx facilities in the third world since they do not possess similar technology. I think it’s a great project and everyone has their ducks in a row on this one because making a huge announcement like this and not delivering would be catastrophic…

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  9. Jim says:

    Brian, Have to agree w NOACRINTL, if you have followed it at all you would realize the APA has in no way slowed the process down. The so called developer, and the developer alone has set the timetable in the review process. In my estimation the delays on his part are calculated to hopefully coincide with the rebound of the realestate market. If that’s the case it may be a very long time before ACR gets off the ground, if at all.

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