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.