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An Adirondack Park Economic Council?
October 22, 2012 - Ernest Hohmeyer
Rails vs. Trails. The Adirondack Club & Resort. Letting the world know we are a special region with unique opportunities and challenges. With no large city or "capital" to carry our voice, do we need a place to hear our Adirondack Park issues?
Do we need an Adirondack Park Economic Council?
Will we need to think differently as a region to get our voice heard? Will we need to walk and talk as a real Park?
Can we finally do that with the new opportunities of the information age?
Further, we will need to do that, if the new information based economy has made obsolete community-based grass-roots efforts, requiring a brand new strategy?
The result may be that for the first time, we can create a true, working Park.
But we may need to first admit, that the old ways of doing business just does not hack it.
Is the only true Adirondack Park economic organization the Adirondack Park Agency? When you take a look at the Act, they are also responsible to consider economic conditions of the Park. And, there have been fine individuals who have carried on the “economic affairs” role of the Agency.
There has been a great deal of debate over the years about the Agency’s role in this arena. What role should it play? How far should it go in terms of services it offers? Local planning assistance, business development outreach, and an ombudsman role varied based on Agency and political leadership at the time.
To date has the Agency been able to explore this role to its fullest potential? Is the biggest barrier historical perceptions that it is a regulator y agency first, a land-use planning agency second and a community and economic affairs office after that?
It is interesting, that currently the Agency is not seen by many as an “obstacle” to creating jobs. This is a far cry from the days of public meetings with police protection.
Is there a new opportunity here for this recognized state agency to play a new role?
Is it the Park’s greatest missed opportunity that the APA has not been afforded to be THE Adirondack PARK Agency?
So whether it be by some “top-down” model at the time, or the sheer practical reality of a 6 million acre Park, a quilt of regional, county and local efforts sprung up to spearhead the role of moving the Park economy forward.
At the time, I was one of those that argued passionately about the community first, bottom-up approach.
I would fire myself now.
Yes, as we have been talking these last couple of weeks, there has been success. If nothing else an infrastructure has been put in place that did not exist before. There now is in place vibrant economic initiatives in small business lending and technical assistance, local planning, and industry efforts in agriculture, tourism and back-office.
There is more of recognition of the unique, challenging and special nature of our economy.
But it has not been enough. Just drive through many of our 105 towns and villages and it is obvious what it going on.
No Place to Go
A new Park economic strategy may need to consider: • Has the Blue Line become more known as a regulatory region than a “park”? • That there is a quilt of local efforts that are an important part of the playing field? • Has the information economy rendered in-effective local and county volunteer-based grass-roots efforts?
If we agree that mastering information and using it clearly, succinctly and where speed and rapid follow-up is critical, do we need to “connect” in new ways?
In the job recruiting world they call it “economic development preparedness.” Today this is about mastering information.
In any business someone needs to be responsible for a vision. Then, there needs to be a coordinated business plan to carry out that vision and implement it.
We are getting closer to a vision for the Park with “sustainable communities” but crawling along on how to do it.
Using the new information based economy as strength – something that can access even our most remote communities to the world - can we do several things to create a true, working “Park”?
• Create an Adirondack Park Economic Council Merge existing state initiatives to create a dedicated Park effort. This may not require a large investment. For example, this may include: - The numerous regional economic councils that cover the Park. - Various Empire State Development offices - Multiple state and regulatory “regional” offices such as DOT, DEC - Several tourism regions
• Merge this with “County Economic Councils” To merge “top-down” with “bottom-up” local efforts.. So as not to have hundreds of folks involved, the counties could create their own economic councils made up of local organizations that would have a delegate to the “Park Council.”
In the past, Governor Cuomo’s father called these “working cabinets.” The difference here is that there would be one dedicated to the Park that also involved a coordinated system of grass-roots organizations.
While there are many fine efforts and organizations involved in our economy there is no singular place to go. Whether it is the Rails vs. Trails debate, marketing the Park as a whole, a Park wide-strategy for jobs or even a singular regulatory point of contact, we do not fight for the Park as, well - a Park.
But here is the real key: we can communicate with each other like at no other time in history. With technology we can link grass-roots efforts with regional and state expertise. With frankly very little effort, we can create a Park coordinated economic, marketing and regulatory one stop shop. We can use information and technology and the immense power that is has – to our whim.
There is no place on earth like the Adirondack Park. We have so much to offer. We have a place that so many other people want.
Can we create one message to the world that we are open for business? Can we start with a system of communication? If we are going to harness information and compete with other mountain regions around the world - to do this right - may require greater coordination among partners and a dedicated effort for the Park.
For the Park
We have too many organizations that have strategic mandates in regulation, marketing and jobs. Their territories often are consumed by areas outside of the Park. Is the Park special or not? Is it unique with challenging opportunities and issues?
We seem to have a vision; we need an ability to implement it. This instrument will only have one responsibility: the creation of a real, working Park. Like we do in business, funds and support is based on performance.
Grass-roots to Park-roots?
Having lost my naivety as I lost my hair, this may not happen. It may take a group of community and business people with no affiliation except to create a true Park. It may take each of the 12 counties in the Park to create their own economic councils and then form their own Park-wide effort. Even then this may take one county at a time and perhaps we can start with one in the Tri-lakes region
We have great opportunities and challenges, some which are incredibly divisive.
We need a place to go where top-down meets bottom-up.
We may need more of a Park-wide systematic mechanism to move forward. This time, if we don’t take advantage on what the power of information can do, we may need to look at ourselves.
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