If the Regional Economic Development Council structure implemented by Gov. Andrew Cuomo has had an impact on the area, the main one has been to nurture a regional identity for the North Country.
At an economic development summit Tuesday in Albany, Cuomo heard updates from heads of Regional Economic Development Councils across New York.
At the forum, which was webcast, Cuomo told North Country Regional Economic Development Council co-chairs Tony Collins and Garry Douglas that they have done extraordinarily well in creating a North Country identity despite more challenges than other areas of the state.
"It's especially hard in the North Country, because there you have more identification for the locality," said Cuomo, who regularly vacations in Lake Placid and Saranac Lake. "Even the roads in the North Country are not conducive to connectivity."
Despite those challenges, Cuomo said he feels a real sense of pride in the North Country now, and a regional feel that didn't used to exist. He said a region needs to buy in to a plan if it's going to be successful in springing back up from economic depression, and that's what's happening in the North Country.
"Boy, everywhere I went, people were up, they were excited, they feel that things are happening, and that is such an important factor in this equation," Cuomo said.
Douglas and Collins said at the forum that the NCREDC's projects that were awarded money last year are doing well, with 10 of 15 priority projects fully under contract and all but two of the 60 total projects moving fully forward.
"We feel very good about where we're at," Douglas told the governor.
Cuomo asked if that new identity has been harnessed in advertising for the area, since a main goal of the NCREDC is to encourage and embrace tourism.
"It's such a treasure, the Adirondacks, and I really feel that people just don't know about it," Cuomo said.
Douglas told Cuomo that there is more collaborative tourism advertising that has come out of the NCREDC, though he wants to focus that effort more. He said plans for that are in the works through several working groups.
Collins noted that he wants to increase advertising not just for tourism but also for people moving to the North Country and telecommuting to work. Collins is the head of Clarkson University, which has been pushing to strengthen broadband infrastructure improvements to increase the number of telecommuters in the area.
Cuomo announced later Tuesday an initiative to help provide high-speed Internet to rural and underserved urban areas with $25 million in grants through the regional councils, according to The Associated Press.