Talking straight about the exodus of young people from the North Country

Kids like Becca Johnson, from Rossie, New York, are leaving their small town worlds behind and choosing a much more urban life (Photo: Mark Scarlett)

Today NCPR launches an on-going series where we’ll be digging into all the complex questions that surround the issue of “brain drain” and the flight of young people and families from the North Country.

This has emerged as one of the most serious and contentious issues in our region.  The issue drew national headlines earlier this month when Cornell University pointed to the loss of young people from Hamilton County in the Adirondacks.

The projections by Cornell’s Program on Applied Demographics also show the number of 30- to 39-year-old residents in the Adirondacks’ Hamilton County decreasing by mid-century to 160, down from 426 in 2010.

The number of 20- to 29-year-old residents will slip to 128 by 2040, down from 354 counted during the last census, according to the researchers.

The cause of this exodus has become a political football.  Some local leaders in the Adirondack Park have pointed to environmental regulations and state land ownership as the culprit.

Some green advocates, meanwhile, have maintained that there’s no significant issue at all, suggesting that the greying of communities might not trigger serious impacts.

In this series, we’ll try to sort through the claims and get at the facts, to the degree possible.

Let me start this discussion by asking not for your opinion about the loss of young families from our region, but for your actual experience.

If you’re a parent, have you seen your kids move away?  Does your neighborhood look greyer than it did twenty years ago?  How about your church?  Is your volunteer fire squad having a tough time finding young recruits?

How about school teachers?  Are your class sizes dwindling?  What are the trends for your school district in terms of enrollment?

I’d love to hear from folks chiming in inside the Adirondack blue line, and from In Boxers outside the Park.  And I urge you all to check out this morning’s profile of Becca Johnson, a St. Lawrence County native who works now in Manhattan.

Her personal journey — and the experience of her family — I hope puts a human face on what is often seen as a political or statistical issue.

Comments welcome.

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54 Comments on “Talking straight about the exodus of young people from the North Country”

  1. oa says:

    Brian,
    I left a small town. I believe you left small towns. Many kids want to leave small towns to go to college and join the employment ranks. Nothing wrong with that. The problem is not offering enough to lure 20-somethings and 30-somethings back here, or luring that demographic from other places, or keeping the people who come up north for college. Some smaller, isolated places, like Burlington and Asheville, NC, and Boise, Idaho, have been able to do that. We haven’t.

  2. Verplanck says:

    My partner left the NC after college (suny potsdam), we both emded up in burlington. We were looking for the natural beauty of the NC but with culture and good jobs. Once again I have to bring up that VT has arguably higher regulation than the APA (our act 250 process), but is doing better economically and demographically.

    Regs are not holding the NC back, IMO. An older generation unwilling to adapt to the realities of a 21st century world is to blame. You had a series awile back about the next generation of farmers…focusing on things like this will be the draw that lures in more youth, not tourism or manufacturing jobs.

  3. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    Both of my kids have moved away; very very far away.

    When i was young I moved away for a time but I moved back when I had kids mostly because we needed the family support. I doubt my kids will move back to live here permanently.

    I get to see them on facebook though, it isn’t totally evil.

  4. John Warren says:

    Brian has already expressed his opinions on this in a number of public forums and in an Adirondack Life piece entitled “The Other Endangered Species”.

    I hope folks will look at the arguments from the other side of this debate and make up their own minds.

    http://www.adirondackalmanack.com/search/label/Demographics

    I see a lot of newly arriving young people: Local farmers returning to their ancestral farms after their parents moved away, young people coming here to work at non-profits, and in outdoor recreation industries. Young formerly urban professionals coming here to escape the over-development of suburbia. Most of the young adults I know who grew up here say they would never leave.

    There are three basic facts at play that seem to always get ignored.

    1 – The year-round population of the Adirondacks has grown three times faster than the state average since 1970. The population of second home owners (who mostly become permanent residents) has exceeded even that rate.

    2- The movement of young people from rural areas is part of the much larger baby boom trend – the only reason we’re greying is because of the baby boom.

    3- The Adirondacks is doing better economically than other rural areas in New York State.

  5. Brian Mann says:

    Folks – In the interest of openness, I’m going to leave John’s comment, but I don’t want this conversation to get sidetracked.

    I don’t want to relitigate here your opinions or political perspectives. I want to hear your actual experience.

    If your community is growing in population, or you see young people arriving (or staying) in healthy numbers, tell us about it.

    If your community is struggling with a loss of 20- and 30-somethings, I want to hear that too.

    –Brian, NCPR

  6. gromit says:

    A suggestion: this series will be meaningless if it does not include comparisons with other rural parts of the country. If it can be shown that young people are moving out of the Adks, that’s somewhat useful to know. But even more useful will be comparing that with the case in other rural regions. I.e., if the Adk population of 30-somethings is declining, is it doing so faster or slower than, say, rural Maine? Questions about environmental regulations and how they impact population trends are worth asking, but if we don’t have comparative data, we’re just seizing anecdotes to support the opinions we already have. Put the Adk story into the context of rural America. If you don’t, this is a waste of time and just another opportunity for everyone to trash, or defend, the APA, the Forest Preserve, etc., on the basis of preconceptions.

  7. Brian Mann says:

    Hi Gromit – We will be talking with national experts. But it’s worth noting that the first two pieces of the series (today’s and tomorrow’s) profile people from communities outside the Adirondack Park — one in Rossie, NY, and the other in Potsdam, NY.

    –Brian, NCPR

  8. OnewifeVetNewt says:

    1. John Warren’s linked article is interesting and provocative. One point he makes is that much of the region’s problem results from the national trends of growing economic inequality and the failure to guaranty affordable healthcare to everyone. I hope this provokes a response from Brian.

    2. Our region is, if you can find a job and afford the taxes, great for raising families. But, not being a year-round outdoor sports fanatic, I would not want to be a single twenty-something here, either.

  9. mervel says:

    I hope our children leave and then at some point come back. I do not want their life experiences and world view shaped only from the experiences of living here, nice as it may be.

    From my personal experience I see most of the kids who get a college education from a college or university outside of the north country leaving and most of the kids who do not get college educations or who drop out of high school staying.

  10. Gary says:

    I left a local rural town to attend college. From college I went to Rochester for the higher wages. The urban setting has it’s advantages but it wasn’t me. Upon retirement I moved back. Our small town has very few young people between 20 and 30. We have a problem getting young people to serve on the fire department or work for the highway dept.

  11. Kathy says:

    We sold our 60 head family farm in 1993. At the time, we had children ages newborn – 12. The farm had been in the family for decades. We could have gone into debt and went bigger, but at the time, milk prices had dropped drastically and we couldn’t reconcile spending more and making less.

    My adult children love their upbringing on the farm but they got their degree and moved (and are moving) away. I have taught my kids that it’s a wonderful, big world out there full of opportunities. And technology in the last 10 years has opened up the world to them in ways that other generations have not experienced.

    However, my kids have had many ideas of making our property productive that would bring in tourists. They’ve had some wonderful ideas and are willing to invest in making it happen while living elsewhere. They also have retiring here in their sites..but the money to do that comfortably has to be made elsewhere.

  12. OnewifeVetNewt says:

    My own experience as a teacher and parent in the public school systems in both S. Essex Cty. and Saranac Lake, is that the shrinking of school enrollment corresponds to shrinking family size. In Moriah, in the nineties, I literally had kids from the same almost family every year, or every other year, for ten or fifteen years. By the time I retired in ’08, it was unusual to see more than 2 or 3 children per family.

  13. gromit says:

    The comment from OnewifeVetNewt is important. Another needed context for this series will be comparisons of family size over time. That might be another factor in declining school populations.

  14. Dave Staszak says:

    Leaving for education and experience is to be expected. But not moving back??? I live in SLK and moved here 6 years ago from Buffalo after spending about two years job hunting in the Adirondacks. I can, off the top of my head, identify half dozen others who moved here from out of town for job opportunities and there are several others who commute all the way from Plattsburgh. I think jobs are available here but they require some education and experience. The question why the kids don’t move back is the real issue. Jobs open up and they don’t apply. I sometimes think that the homegrown population doesn’t appreciate what they have in terms of outdoor potential. They would rather live near a Wal-Mart than near a dozen back country ski opportunities.

  15. LocalGirlReturned says:

    I left the North Country for college in New York City and thought I might never come back… but I swallowed my pride and returned for a job, and have never regretted it since. Our college towns bring back and retain many young people, and have much culture to boast about. You know what keeps young people in small towns like Rossie? Things like teaching jobs, which are becoming fewer and farther between. I love it here in the North Country and have a circle of young friends (both natives and transplants to our area) who I hope will stay and raise families here with us as well!

  16. Brian Mann says:

    Discussion of family size is interesting. I think the lack of significant immigration to the North Country is also worth noting.

    The Center for Immigration Studies made this observation in a 2007 study:

    “Immigration accounts for virtually all of the national increase in public school enrollment over the last two decades. In 2007, there were 10.8 million school-age children from immigrant families in the United States.”

    So while much of urban and suburban America sees immigration — and at least some large families — boosting their youth population and school enrollment, the North Country appears to be missing that resource.

    –Brian, NCPR

  17. I live in a small city (large by upstate NY standards) just outside the Blue Line, the same place I grew up in. A lot of the people I went to high school with have since moved to bigger cities and a lot are still around here. The people that have moved tend to be those in highly trained professions where the jobs are primarily located in big cities, or in more artistic professions like music and theater. If my job let me telecommute and broadband were more widely available in the Park, I’d seriously consider moving into the mountains.

    Though I do agree with the comment that any useful discussion compare the statistics of the North Country with rural America as a whole.

  18. Kathy says:

    It seems that every time a new business tries to take off in this area it fails. I would love to see one of the big, themed miniature golf courses here or airsoft gun field. Unless a kid is into hockey, hunting, or hiking, movies, or bowling – what is there? Is it the local government that won’t allow for new ideas and/or businesses? Or is the area so depressed that people have fallen under the oppression and feel hopeless?

  19. dave says:

    My wife and I (we are 30 somethings) moved to the Adirondacks 3 years ago.

    It doesn’t seem very popular to say this right now, but we love the Adirondacks exactly the way they are. We wanted to live here, in the Adirondacks that we grew to love, not the future Adirondacks of some developer’s imagination.

    If we had reason to believe that the area would be significantly changing, especially if we had reason to believe that the area would be less protected, we most certainly would have looked elsewhere.

    So in a way, I suppose, you can say that we moved here because of the environmental rules and restrictions. If we wanted a bustling city life, we would have stayed in the city. If we wanted Walmarts and strip malls, we would have moved to rural anywhere. If we wanted big fancy resorts, there are plenty of other areas that offer those.

    And ya know what? Since moving here we have been pleasantly shocked to meet dozens and dozens of young people who have done the same thing and feel the same way. In fact, we often laugh at the fact that our social circle has doubled since moving away from the city. We were prepared to move up to the mountains and keep mostly to ourselves, hang out with an older neighbor on occasion, and have to drive a few hours when we wanted social fun with people our own age… that was our perception of how life would be here (maybe because we read all of these reports that the Adirondacks are dying)… but that has not been our reality. Not even close.

  20. zeke says:

    School enrollment is decreasing. However the number of jobs in public schools is decreasing. As a result, class sizes are rising.

  21. john says:

    Two points stand out as I read the first installment of this series;
    1. This is a national trend, not just our region.
    2. It’s not just about economics. It is very much about lifestyle choices and access to broader cultural experiences.
    This pattern happened at the end of the great depression. I remember reading that up until WWll, 80% of the nation’s population lived outside of urban areas. That trend reverses with the growth of the suburbs, (sub-urban), culture of the 50′s and 60′s. The Post WWll baby boom generation had a large back-to-the-land movement which is what brought me and many others in my generation out of the cities and suburbs and, ‘back-to-the-land’. Many young people are now, in turn, rejecting the choices we made in our time and moving toward more cosmopolitan lifestyles.
    Given the complexity of this set of dynamics, I doubt that we can consciously do a whole lot to stem this trend. It has to play itself out generationally.

  22. Will Doolittle says:

    I grew up in Saranac Lake, went away to college, moved back in my 20s, then moved to one place just outside the Park — Malone — that had most of the bad aspects of the Adirondacks — remoteness, cold, prisons, rednecks — and none of the good — natural beauty, charm, arts — and then to another place just outside the park — Glens Falls — that has most of the good aspects of the Adirondacks and less of the bad. I would never move back into the Park with my kids, because of the remoteness, the ignorance, the narrowness, the North Country redneck culture that still thrives there. I would go back as a second home-owner and perhaps as a retiree.

  23. Brian Mann says:

    Will –

    Please remember to keep it civil here. We’re talking about complicated and sensitive cultural differences.

    Describing your motivations for where you choose to live (and not live) is valid.

    But I think it’s a stretch factually to describe the Adirondacks as a culture framed by ignorance, narrowness and rednecks – and maybe unnecessarily mean, to boot.

    –Brian, NCPR

  24. dave says:

    I’d consider the possibility that that isn’t really Will D.

  25. Will Doolittle says:

    Well, I guess I don’t think it’s unnecessary. I don’t mean that narrow-mindedness and ignorance is the dominant culture, or everyone has those traits. But it is there, part of the culture, stronger than other places I’ve lived, and a big reason why I wouldn’t live there.

  26. Will Doolittle says:

    That was negative and unfair. I apologize. More accurately, I wouldn’t want to live in the Adirondacks because of its lack of diversity and its distance from anyplace that has any cultural/ethnic/racial diversity to speak of. Redneck is too harsh. But when you grow up in a tiny place with little cultural diversity and don’t get out of the area much, if at all, you are going to almost unavoidably have a narrow worldview and an ignorance about people different from those you’re accustomed to. And the prevalence of that base of narrow experience in Adirondack communities is why I wouldn’t want to raise my kids there.

  27. Kathy says:

    I wanted to add that my father moved us up from the suburbs in Bergen County, NJ, in the early 70′s to get us out of the fast paced living. I was 15. And of all things, he started farming! Culture shock.

    At first it was difficult to acclimate but in time I loved it and am very glad to have married and raised my children here.

    Yet, those Jersey roots and love of adventure must have played into nudging my children out into the world. It seems they have the best of both worlds because they do love their roots but learned a different life from their mother.

    Twelve years ago we got internet and 2 years ago high-speed. Six years ago we went from 5 channels to satellite television. These two things certainly played a part in opening up the world of opportunity to my kids and I’m sure many others in rural areas. Also, many kids in SLC have seen their parents struggle financially. Why should they struggle if they don’t have to?

    Also, you asked about church. I attend a church of about 300 and there are many, many young families who happen to think this area (SLC) is a great place to raise kids. The safer, simpler lifestyle is attractive. The local colleges provide programs that make rural life less isolated for their kids. But then, our kids seem to outgrow the area and move on.

  28. Rick says:

    I grew up in the tri lakes area and graduated HS in the early 70′s. Most of the gradudates who went on to earn 4 yr degrees moved to more metropolitan areas that had the job opportunities for the degrees attained. I agree w onewifevets comment about the smaller families and I think that has a lot to do with the more widespread use of birth control by the offspring of the largely Catholic population in the north country. Back in HS it was fairly common to see families with7,8,9 or even more children. Looking at those same families virtually none of the offspring are now bringing up more than 2. My kid(only) graduated from HS a few yrs ago and has moved out of state for a job related to his major. It’s not likely he will ever be able to find work in his field in the Dacs. Many of his classmates who went on to earn 4 yr degrees are in the same situation he is. My take is that the exodus of young people from the NC hasn’t changed a whole lot from generation to generation.

  29. Will’s comments hints at a vicious circle. Younger people, in general, tend to be more open minded to difference than older people. And yet *if* younger people are the ones leaving the Park for good because (at least in part) of its lack of open mindedness, then the Park because less diverse, creating the self-perpetuating situation.

  30. Brian says:

    I grew up just outside the blue line and graduated from North Country Community College in Saranac Lake. After graduating from Cortland with an education degree I moved back to Saranac Lake and worked 3-4 part-time jobs for two years. Growing tired of working that many jobs at odd hours, I left the area. That was probably the biggest regret of my life. It’s been 15 years now and would move back if the right opportunity presented itself. I’ve applied to a handful of job openings over the 15 years, and haven’t had any luck. And when I say handful, I mean 3-4 jobs. I guess there in lies part of the problem. There are those who sacrifice and work 3-4 seasonal jobs to make ends meet and stay in the area or are lucky enough to get one job that pays the bills. I mention the Adirondacks, but I believe most of the North Country counties (Franklin, Clinton, St. Lawrence) are similar to the fact they don’t offer the type of jobs you would find in urban areas. Thus making the North Country a unique area. And just like those that sacrifice by working 3-4 jobs, there are those of us like myself who sacrifice the opportunity of living in an area with scenic beauty, low crime rates, abundance of outdoor activities, no traffic or over development for one decent job that pays well. So with this I’ve changed careers and am trying to save enough to buy a second home to spend more time in Adirondacks where I feel more at home than anywhere else.

  31. Becca Johnson says:

    On the matter of cultural diversity in the north country, here is why it would be difficult for ME to choose to move back to Rossie with my bi-racial family. And its quite a simple one (some might even think superficial). I want my children to live in a place where there are other children who look like them and other families who look like their family. Or said another way, I want them to live in a place where they are not the only children who look different.

    My open heart and mind was born and bread in the north country and I am VERY proud of that. My parents purposefully infused our upbringing with culture and diversity by making trips to Ottowa, choosing alternative education, and soaking up nearly every bit of arts & culture we could in the local area and the Adirondacks. I know that I could do that with my family, if I chose to live there.

    For now, I just choose to live in a place where culture, diversity and the arts is at my fingertips.

  32. Dave Mason says:

    Here is some real data on this:

    This link is to a map showing population changes in ADK Towns
    http://aatvny.org/content/Generic/View/19:field=documents;/content/Documents/File/149.pdf
    Lewis grew 15%, Keene up 4%, Sac Lake up 7%, Lake Placid down 4%, Morehouse dropped 43%. The point is it varies a lot across the Park so talking about this Park-wide is tricky. Some areas do surprisingly well. Lewis, who knew?

    For school enrollments from 2007-2010 see:
    http://aatvny.org/content/Generic/View/19:field=documents;/content/Documents/File/152.pdf
    I live in Keene where school enrollment has been around 170 for a while, essentially flat. The few places where enrollment is up are districts when they have really worked on it…which demonstrates it is not an intractable problem if you want to address it.

    There do seem to be more young people around Keene now. I’m not sure how they all make a living but there is certainly a robust community of younger people. At the same time, there are more retirees moving to their vacation homes here or at least spending a lot more time here.

  33. Paul says:

    It is funny how quickly a discussion on the “what” of demographics can so quickly turn into a conversation on “why”.

  34. Paul says:

    This mornings story was interesting. I assume that the others will be a bit different. This one seems a bit out there even for the NC. Abandoned barn, no toilet, a town with the same population as 1860?? Her migration to a more urban life may be part of an “historic” trend but the rest just seems like a bit of an outlier to me.

  35. mervel says:

    I think Brian hit the real nail on the head. This is a great place to live it is not a great place to earn enough money to live for most young people or to really start a career. I moved here following my wife who had a professional job coming in, I found work which I really like, but you know we could not live on what I make.

    You don’t have net migration with an unemployment rate that runs on average between 7-11% for the past 10 years AND combined with some of the lowest salaries in NYS.

    I think immigration would be a great way to increase the workforce and the number of children, immigrants come to work and to find opportunity, can that be found in the North Country in any big way?

    I think the answer is a pretty clear no. However there will always be some opportunities here, just not enough. The answer is simple economics.

  36. Pete Klein says:

    I think the focus up here is all wrong. Too much talk about what can be done to keep young people here.
    Forget rural America in general and the Adirondacks in particular and just look at the general past and current history of America. Americans move!
    I grew up in Detroit. After the Navy I spent a year in Detroit, then moved to NYC. Since then, I moved from NYC to Schoharie County, then back to NYC, then up here and been here for 24 years.
    Not one member of my family continues to live in Detroit. A few are in the suburbs of Detroit. Others are scattered about from San Diego to Denver to North Carolina, Virginia and god knows where else.
    Even people born in NYC move from NYC.
    My point is there needs to be a greater effort to attract rather than retain.
    Would it help to try to attract tourists who are other than white to vacation here and then maybe want to live here?
    I think we are at a point now where telecommuting is a real possibility to attract people to live here but culturally and politically we need to open up some.

  37. Pete Klein says:

    By the way, and this might be important, all you have to do to call yourself a New Yorker is to live in one of the five boroughs (counties) of NYC. You don’t have to be born there to call yourself a “real New Yorker.”

  38. Walker says:

    I just moved to Saranac Lake five years ago, so I don’t have a lot of personal history seeing young people moving away to offer. But I have been working on Saranac Lake history enough to have read hundreds of obituaries from the 1930s on, and I can tell you that children leaving that Adirondacks when young is nothing new — it is a rare obit that doesn’t mention a number of surviving children living all over the state and the nation. So this is not a new phenomenon by any means.

  39. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    When I was growing up I heard plenty of people around here disdainfully describing people from the city or suburbs as “flat-landers”. It seems like many took a certain amount of pride in being what others described as “hicks.”

    So when I see guys driving by in giant pickups with ridiculously oversized tires and a decal across the front of their windshield proudly declaring themselves to be “Redneck” I’m not sure why it is un-civil to say they are rednecks.

  40. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    On the Brain Drain front, while there are plenty of very smart people in the NC it seems an inescapable conclusion that we (on the whole) are shipping our brightest and most creative people away to benefit other areas for their most productive years. Sure there are bright people coming back or even moving here from elsewhere but they are a much older demographic.

    Young people want to go places where there are other young people.

    We are losing the best years and greatest energy of our young people in a similar fashion to the way that our federal tax dollars benefit Southern and Western states.

  41. Kathy says:

    Not sure about other towns, but I feel (and perhaps wrongly?) that the village of Potsdam has been very choosy about who and what comes to their town – and I don’t mean just the tension with Walmart.

    Based on the experience of living near Potsdam for 40 years, it seems it’s not easy for national chains to get anywhere near. How many times have we heard of a chain restaurant or store looking at the area and never coming. Why is that?

    These things are part of life today and I am sure young people are going to take that into consideration where they settle down.

    So I conclude part of the problem may be local government. Correct me if I’m wrong.

  42. Paul says:

    “I can tell you that children leaving that Adirondacks when young is nothing new” Walker and Pete have it right we are a nation on the move. I grew up in Saranac Lake and have been there (as a second home owner) with my family for about a total of 35 years now, it is getting much older. It could be the norm for the nation (or at least rural america) but it seems like a fact. I think this trend is more likely to have an bigger impact on small towns than on urban areas. To be honest I like to see all the older people but my best friends there are much older than I so I am biased.

  43. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    The thing is, hanging around younger people makes you think and feel younger, and hanging around old people sucks the life right out of you.

    Yes older people have lots of wisdom to pass on (and by “wisdom” I mean they have made lots of stupid mistakes so they may not really know what the smart thing to do is but they understand the results of the stupid thing very well), but once you’ve heard all their stories for the eighth time you start to wonder why you’re still living here.

    I, for one, want to have a lot more young people hanging around. So I can suck some of the life out of them. And tell them stories about how the APA wont let me change my Depends.

  44. tourpro says:

    The point about a location’s attractiveness and foreign immigration is right on.

    There is no special trend happening here. The movement of populations from rural to urban is worldwide. And people generally move their lives for better conditions – either immediately or for the opportunities presented for their family. Only “First World” people get to move for any other reason (retirement, better view, “diversity”, etc).

    Well, not only do most “young” people find better environment and opportunities elsewhere, but so do immigrants.

    I’d like to talk about assimilation, but that’s probably off-topic.

  45. SirLeland says:

    Good series, and interesting discussion.

    I left the area in 1988 and lived and worked in NYC for 17 years until moving back up to the North Country in late 2005, where I finally met and married my wife. I do miss the city sometimes…mostly the food (best restaurants in the world bar none), and the fact that there was always something different to do. And the pay was higher, but so too was the cost of living. I think that the city is a very good place to be when you are young, but I found that it does catch up with you after awhile, especially as you grow older. Despite the lower salary, I don’t have many regrets about moving back up North. Both living experiences left me a more rounded person, and with a deep appreciation of what both ways of life have to offer.

    And l would also add that spending some time living and working in a big city also toughens you up too, boy. My job up here in the North Country can be very stressful at times, but I often tell my colleagues when they frequently mention to me how easy it seems for me to brush things off and remain focused, that even my worst day I have up here is like a Sunday in the park compared to my worst days living and working in the city.

  46. CB says:

    I live in Canton, but I am originally from a much larger city. I am 30 years old and I think the North Country is a very difficult place to live for people my age and younger. It’s not the quality or pace of live that make it difficult to live here for an extended period of time, but it really boils down to two things. 1) It is difficult place to have a career– meaning it’s difficult to move up the career ladder in your chosen profession, and it’s a more difficult place to change careers, and it’s even more difficult when you have a husband or partner who is trying to do the same. 2) Northern New York really isnt an inexpensive place to live. We like to say it is, but that is a joke. Given the fact that a lot of people my age have student loans, the salaries offered by most local employers aren’t keeping pace with what is needed to make ends meet. Rent is high and “good” apartments are difficult to come by; property taxes are insane. I don’t think it’s the lifestyle problem of not having enough shopping or “stuff” to do– if that is what a person is interested in, NNY isn’t going to be on their radar anyway. But for the young people who do want the lifestyle that NNY offers, there are more pressing reasons why it is hard to make a go of it here and stay here.

  47. SirLeland says:

    Well, I certainly agree with your point #1 about the NC being a difficult area to land and change a career. Speaking only for myself, I found my years working and education in the city gave me a leg-up when I relocated back to the NC in terms of landing my current career.

    I would somewhat disagree with your Point #2, though. Again, speaking only for myself, my studio apartment (yes, Studio…that means I had one room with a tiny bathroom and small kitchenette) in the city was $1600/month, and didn’t include any utilities. I now have a five bedroom house in the village and between mortgage, taxes and utililities, I’m actually paying roughly the same if not a little less than I was then. So, while it may not necessarily be cheaper, your money definitely goes further, and gets you more in the North Country for what you pay.

  48. MrSandwich says:

    1 word and that’s nepotism… The only way to get a decent job in the NC is to know someone working at the plant or school that can get you a job that pays enough to make a living. Otherwise people move away for better opportunities. Yes Kathy Potsdam wants nothing to do with progress. NIMBY is alive and well. There was a fun park on 11b until the neighbors got sick of all the noise. Or was that the potential for noise??

  49. mervel says:

    I think CB has got it, it is just tough to make a decent living here and its kind of expensive to live compared to the wage structure, that is a bad combination for a young person.

  50. michael coffey says:

    “I never saw my hometown till I stayed away too long.”–Tom Waits.

    Although i left Saranac at 17 to go to college and have not lived there since (and no longer qualify as the subject of the young leaving the Adirondacks), I can say that the bigger world beyond has opportunities I did not think I could find at home–opportunities and experiences. Though I know now there are experiences unique to the North Country. It is those I miss. My wife and I want nothing more at this time than to spend more time upstate, as we now say, a sign of our distance, and we plan to. Outside of the region for these many years, i’ve paradoxically developed a sensibility that values that region all the more. Perhaps I’m romanticizing. But my best friends are upstate, and my best memories.

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