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Our Communities as an Adirondack Regional Model?
June 23, 2013 - Ernest Hohmeyer
We often hear about the “Balkanization” of the Adirondacks. We are torn between numerous entities ranging between municipal lines to state and federal jurisdictions.
The Tri-lakes are symbolic of all of this. Many have the sense; this is the true apex of the Adirondacks where we share common economy, infrastructure and amenities such as sporting facilities and hospitals. What we have is also quite different from one another in terms of history and what we have to offer.
But this diversity may also be our strength.
We Have it All
On an economic development front can you imagine what we can offer if we combine our business parks in Tupper Lake and Saranac Lake with commercial land in other communities?
In terms of tourism development, if we combine the water and mountain assets and the Wild Center in Tupper with the Paul Smiths VIC, Dewey, Lake Placid and Wilmington would this not be an unparalleled Adirondack destination?
We are pulling from our unique communities already. People live in one community and work in another. A large part of our workforce and amenities extend beyond traditional community lines to Paul Smiths, Lake Clear, Bloomingdale and others.
And the fact of the matter is, if a large development occurs in any of our communities, we will need to pool from the region to make this happen.
Is it possible to create what is called a “community cluster” effort? Could we be a model for other Adirondack communities to follow?
Why? If we form some type of working partnership, we may be eligible for regional grant funds.
There is already much precedent. In tourism, the communities from Newcomb to Long Lake are building a tourism consortium. In the Saranac Lake area, a tourism council has been formed that crosses municipal lines. We already are working on several economic development projects.
Focus our Energy?
To many whether they are talking about tourism or economic development, they still see too many efforts with the same goals overlapping each other.
Our challenge now may be focusing that energy.
If we are not careful, this energy may explode around us fragmenting the many pieces of collaboration into disjointed parochialism. We have seen that with tourism between the communities and the counties and among the communities themselves. We hear about the efforts “in the village” versus outlying communities when it comes to economic development.
Is there a way to bolster regional unity by formally working on projects together? Could these projects be combined under the umbrella of a regional “cluster?” Could this regional cluster be a model that has funding potential?
The state through its regional councils will soon be accepting applications for funding. Regional cooperation that blurs municipal lines seems to be encouraged.
Is there a chance we could apply as a region?
For example, an approach may look like this:
Is it possible for these individual communities to create a regional community cluster approach to its economic and tourism needs? The Tri-lakes are symbolic of the Adirondack Park condition; could it serve as a pilot program? Recent steps have indicated the interest in doing so:
•School systems discussing partnerships •A regional effort to attract a “bio-tech cluster.” •Recreational paths between communities •Creation of a tourism council that cuts across county, town and village lines •Regional involvement with events
How? Simply as a way to get the ideas rolling:
I. Regional Economic Strategy: A. Attraction Develop a regional cluster approach by building upon existing community efforts to attract key industry to the Tri-lakes region. This will include targets identified in: - Community comprehensive plans - Community Economic Development Strategies - Partnering with county and regional strategies
B. Retention Work with existing businesses to unify efforts of existing local groups such as chamber of commerce’s, business associations and economic development organizations.
II. Tourism Promotion & Development A. Marketing Is it possible to create a Tri-lakes message and packages?
B. Regional Destination Planning You cannot market what you do not have. One goal could be to take advantage of existing efforts such as: - Destination master plans for Saranac Lake, Wilmington and Lake Placid - Comprehensive master plans - Downtown revitalization efforts
What might be some potential Outcomes?
On the economic development side perhaps the creation of a regional "economic profile," pooling our resources for marketing and creating a regional business resource center. This may help to alleviate individual efforts that are sometimes underfunded or under-resourced. Working together may provide more of a coordinated tie-in with the region and the state.
On the tourism side, using the Saranac Lake Area Tourism Council as a model, can we collaborate on a Tri-lakes effort? One that does not compete for funding and works together on regional events and promotion?
Creating a Model to be Replicated
It would be the goal of our Tri-lakes project to be of potential model to other interested North Country communities.
Do We want to Play Together?
To go after possible pots of money may be a poor reason to do this. The bigger question may be the belief that we are a true region. We seem to be symbolic of an area that shares an Adirondack sense of place, quality of life and dependency on tourism as well as a cluster of amenities such as schools, community services and workforce.
We also seem to be an area that shares key regional assets such as a hospital, airports, and Olympic venues.
There is also an overwhelming need to improve, revitalize and expand our economic base. School systems are in peril, key infrastructure such as hospitals need to be re-positioned, there is a need to diversify the economy and finally, to create critical destination amenities to attract today’s visitor.
The question is that as we look to the future should we do more as a region? Individual communities within the Tri-lakes struggle to adequately resource it’s economic, tourism and community development efforts and tourism needs.
If we work together in a more coordinated fashion, could we achieve greater results and obtain additional support and resources?
But, do we want to play together? If we do there may be funding.
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