Economic development in the North Country is being boosted by community-based projects led by state and community leaders to expand tourism, improve workforce skills and spur industrial growth, according to an economic profile by New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli. DiNapoli released the report today while he was in Plattsburgh speaking to the North Country Chamber of Commerce.
"The North Country's unique rural landscape and natural resources provide both opportunities and challenges for growth," said DiNapoli. "State and local leaders are developing innovative strategies that use these geographic features to their advantage. Their focus on promoting tourism, financing projects in various industries and improving critical infrastructure is positioning the region well."
DiNapoli's office examined the six counties making up the North Country region – Clinton, Essex, Franklin, Jefferson, Lewis and St. Lawrence. The region is home to just over 2 percent of the state's population with more than 420,000 residents. The majority of economic activity in the region is concentrated in the Watertown-Fort Drum and greater Plattsburgh areas, both recipients of $10 million grants from the state for downtown revitalization projects. In Watertown, local leaders are promoting the Watertown International Airport, Jefferson Community College and nearby Fort Drum to increase private investment and industrial expansion. To the east, the Plattsburgh area's new Institute for Advanced Manufacturing at Clinton Community College opened in September 2017 to improve college-to-work transitions.
DiNapoli's report also notes:
- Unemployment is relatively high in the North Country. Since 1990, the region has had a higher annual unemployment rate than the state as a whole in almost every year. In August 2017, the region's rate was 5.6 percent compared to the statewide rate of 4.9 percent.
- Housing is relatively affordable in the region compared to other parts of New York, with just over 25 percent of homeowners spending more than 30 percent of their income on housing.
- Property tax bills are relatively low for homeowners in the North Country. For example, the estimated median property tax bill in Clinton County was $3,858 in 2015 — less than half of the estimated median statewide bill ($8,173).
- Median household income for the region is lower than the state median ($59,269). Essex County has the highest median income ($52,758) and St. Lawrence County has the lowest ($44,705).
- The Comptroller's Fiscal Stress Monitoring System currently identifies four local governments (Town of Constable, Franklin County, City of Ogdensburg and St. Lawrence County) and three school districts (Clifton-Fine, Indian River and Salmon River) in the region as being in some level of fiscal stress.
- The North Country's long-standing role in alternative energy projects continues to evolve. Wind farms are now a prominent feature in Tug Hill – taking advantage of some of the highest wind velocities in the eastern United States.
The report found efforts to educate and train residents will become increasingly more important as the region's economy continues to evolve. DiNapoli also noted the combination of state, federal and Canadian interests in the area present potential opportunities to address the economic development challenges in the region.
To read the report, go to: http://www.osc.state.ny.us/localgov/pubs/economicprofile/north-country.pdf
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