In the News  Archive

Survey: Students would stay for jobs

Daily Gazette
July 3, 2015

By Stephen Williams

A new survey says most students who attend college in and near the Adirondacks would love to find a job where they could still hike, paddle and ski in the mountains.

The Adirondack Association of Towns and Villages commissioned the survey hoping to support economic planning for a region where local economies tend to be as brittle as November ice.

I’d bet on Martians invading before big-box warehouse jobs come to Long Lake, but it’s a shame people who want to live there for the peace and beauty have to drive to Saratoga County to find work, which some do.

The lack of opportunities is behind the flight of young families from the Adirondacks in recent decades — a phenomenon that leaves schools with echoing hallways and gives beautiful Hamilton County the oldest median age in the state (53.6 years).

Instead of lobbying national chains, though, local officials are talking about encouraging entrepreneurship — and attracting people with the ability to use the Internet to stay connected while living the rural life.

That’s where college grads come in. Show them there are opportunities, and young folks to pal with, and the population decline can reverse.

“Students who chose to go to college in the Adirondacks region are prime candidates to remain and become year-round residents and business leaders,” said Wells town Supervisor Brian Towers, president of the Association of Towns and Villages.

The association is supporting an economic development strategy called Advantage Adirondacks, which has landed $373,000 in state grant money targeting “smart growth” and community revitalization.

The 6-million-acre Adirondack Park has only 130,000 permanent residents; most communities have fewer than 2,000 residents. The unemployment rates are among the lowest in the state in the summer and among the highest in the winter, an extreme version of the tourist economy cycle.

Most of the colleges where students were surveyed weren’t really in the Adirondacks, but count as North Country. They were Clarkson and St. Lawrence universities, North Country Community College, the SUNY Adirondack, Plattsburgh and Potsdam campuses, and Paul Smith’s College.


Part of the reason an Adirondack economic strategy might succeed this time is that state officials, environmental groups and local governments are getting along better than they once did.

That’s not necessarily the doing of Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Joe Martens, but his calm demeanor, approachable style and genuine interest in the Adirondacks didn’t hurt.

He earned praise in all corners after word came out Wednesday that he will be resigning later this month.

Martens’ four years will be remembered for the interminable studies of hydrofracking, which was formally banned in an order Martens announced Monday. The issue had a high political cost, since much of the Southern Tier saw Gold Rush-style opportunity in natural gas exploration. That had to be balanced against deeply entrenched — and, it turns out, scientifically valid — opposition.

Martens’ Adirondack legacy, though, is decidedly positive.

“We’re sorry to see Joe Martens go. He’s been a real friend to the Adirondacks,” said Newcomb Supervisor George Canon, who was once among the most outspoken local officials on the topic of oppressive state regulations in the park.

“Thanks to Commissioner Martens and his team, we have cleaner water and air, more Adirondack wilderness, healthier wildlife, more support for vibrant communities and a strong DEC,” said William C. Janeway, executive director of the Adirondack Council.

David Gibson of Adirondack Wild noted that Martens lasted four years — a long time in the world of political appointees, and enough time to see through restoration of part of the Environmental Protection Fund and completion of new state land acquisitions.

Martens is returning to the Open Space Institute, which he once headed, to serve as a special adviser on national climate change policy.

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