Updates and Activities of the NCREDC
The North Country Regional Economic Development Council (NCREDC) held its public meeting in Watertown on March 20 in a show of support for the long-term viability of Fort Drum ahead of the scheduled rally and listening session about the military base’s impact on the region. The meeting provided the Council with the opportunity to reaffirm its commitment to helping to retain and grow Fort Drum as a national defense asset and the region’s largest employer. Council co-chairs Garry Douglas, President of the North Country Chamber of Commerce, and Tony Collins, President of Clarkson University, shared a joint statement of solidarity with the Fort Drum community during the meeting.
“From day one, Fort Drum was embraced as a top priority by all interests and leaders across this vast region, not only because of our understanding of its economic importance to northern New York but more importantly because of a strong sense of shared responsibility for the well-being of our troops and their families and for the defensive posture of our country—making support for Fort Drum and its people a special priority unlike any other,” said Garry Douglas, President of the North Country Chamber of Commerce and Co-Chair of the North Country Regional Economic Development Council.
“In each of the last four years, the entire region has exhibited immediate consensus around the identification of key projects in support of Fort Drum as high priorities for state funding. The creation of additional quality, affordable housing for Fort Drum personnel and their families was identified early on as a key need, and the Governor’s new approach to economic development provided us with an opportunity to do things that had been difficult before then. Specifically, the ability to help direct major state investment into housing development as an economic development endeavor because we had strongly identified the needs of Fort Drum as a high priority,” said Tony Collins, President of Clarkson University and Co-Chair of the North Country Regional Economic Development Council.
To date, the North Country Regional Council has made several key efforts to secure the future of Fort Drum:
Fort Drum is a major economic engine for the local North Country. It reported contributing nearly $1.3 billion to the economy of the surrounding community in 2014. First installed over a century ago, Fort Drum now is the largest employment site in Upstate New York with 17,269 soldiers and 3,799 civilian workers (including contractors). Approximately 60 percent of the military personnel who work at the base live off-site and receive services such as health care and education in the community. Also, the U.S. Department of Defense estimates that there are more than 2,600 retirees from all branches of service living in the immediate area that receive a total of more than $52 million per year, all of which flows directly into the local economy.
During the meeting, the North Country Regional Economic Development Council also heard presentations on several matters including additional details on the Upstate Revitalization Fund and the Governor’s proposed New NY Broadband Program, which will address broadband gaps and needs in rural areas in the North Country and across the State. The presentation will help the Council begin its planning in anticipation of the state funding to support broadband development.
Finally, the Council heard a special presentation from Congresswoman Elise Stefanik, who joined the meeting to discuss economic development matters including issues related to the northern border, U.S.-Canada relations, transportation and Fort Drum.
The Council also passed a resolution reaffirming its support for enactment by the State Legislature of an Occupancy Tax for Franklin County to help grow the county’s tourism economy.