Category Archives: Economic Development

2012 Regional Economic Council Awards

How the 2012 REDC Projects Line Up to ADK Futures Implementation Plans

The Regional Economic Development Grants for 2012 were announced just before Christmas and they support numerous efforts well aligned to the ADK Futures implementation work.  The ADK Park is part of 3 REDC regions.  A summary of ADK grants in all 3 follows and at the end there is link to the 2012 grant details.

Broadband Projects

Almost $2.1 million in grants to bring broadband to Long Lake and the rest of Hamilton County were awarded.  In addition, $2.2 million was awarded to interconnect public emergency and 911 centers across the region.  We can see the light at the end of the tunnel on the broadband problem.  A $500,000 loan fund will also support last mile connections.

Tourism Projects

The Wild Center in Tupper Lake won $1 million to develop an elevated boardwalk in the tree canopy at the site. Tupper Lake will also see $36,000 to redevelop and old hotel and restaurant.  The ADK Museum exhibition upgrades were granted $50,000.

The ADK Mountain Club will see $221,000 of improvements at its Heart Lake facilities.  Restorations at Great Camp Sagamore, $239,000.  Warren County, in a Hudson River regional coordinated effort, will see $308,000 for a new park, a restored bandshell. and design of a new Corinth train station.

Improvements to the Indian Lake Theater got $63,000 and digital conversion of the Old Forge theater, $25,000.  The new touring ADK Lakes Summer Theater Festival received $150,000.  Traditional Arts in Upstate NY and ANCA received $190,000 to support collection management, artisans and retailers.

AATV received $108,000 to develop the ADK Recreation Web Portal, showcasing recreation activities and amenities across the whole Park.  Lastly, the ADK Economic Development Council will manage a $2 million tourism fund for the region.

Waterfront Improvements (mostly also tourism)

Implementation of waterfront tourism projects in Essex and Clinton Counties, $700,000.  Reconstruction of Bulwagga Bay recreation facilities in Port Henry, $250,000.  Improvements to 3 waterfront parks in Wilmington, $251,000.  Arrowhead Park in Inlet will see redesign and construction, $248,000.  Tupper Lake, along with other communities hosting the 90 mile ADK canoe classic will see $445,000 in projects identified in the Raquette River Blueway Plan.  Northville will see two parks on the lake front improved, $75,000.

Lake George will see new public docks ($170,000), improvements in the park ($750,000) and a whole Gateway Improvement Project aimed at improved water quality, walk-ability and safety in the Village for $545,000.

Water Quality

Lake Champlain non-point source pollution management planning saw a $200,000 grant.  Port Henry water and sewer enhancements, $600,000.  Implementation of the Ausable River watershed management plan, $218,000.

In Lake Placid, the removal of the Chubb River Dam and restoration of the river, $1 million, and this is associated with replacing an old sewer trunk line that runs under the lake.

Implementation of an wide ranging Schroon Lake Watershed Management Plan won $300,000.

Lake George will see $390,000 to work on stream corridors addressing storm water runoff and water quality,

An engineering assessment of Corinth waste water upgrades will see $30,000

Also, a $2 million infrastructure fund for water, sewer, roads and ports across the whole region.

Local Food Projects

A much needed, small, USDA slaughterhouse in Ticonderoga got a boost with $465,000.  A USDA mobile chicken processing unit was funded last year and is soon to be operational.

A North Country Food Hub will be established in Canton, $350,000.

A community kitchen and cafeteria training site for storage and distribution of local ag products from Warren, Washington and Saratoga producers, $125,000

Local Energy Projects

Old Forge will build a new biomass district heating project with a grant of $1 million.  Tupper Lake is awarded $300,000 for design and engineering of a new biomass fueled district heating project including Sunmount, the school and other nearby buildings. The ADK Museum pellet boiler project was granted $130,000.

A natural gas line to the IP Ticonderoga paper mill will replace fuel oil, extending the life of the mill, for $1.75 million.

Father afield, the pellet plant in Malone will see $168,000 to improve energy efficiency.  A grant of $470,000 will go to planting willow plantations intended to fuel the soon-to-start-up ReEnergy project at Ft Drum. A super-efficient biomass fueled co-gen plant in Watervliet Arsenal won $1 million grant.  3 separate biomass heat boilers installed in the Albany area, $600,000.

Additional Important Projects

The former J&L mine site Clifton will finally demolish a large building and do an assessment of site redevelopment possibilities, $175,000

In Warrensburg, a new 40,000 sqft primary care center run by Hudson Headwaters received additional grant funding bringing the total to $7.5 million.

The Town of North Elba and the Village of Saranac Lake won a $463,000 grant to develop a comprehensive plan addressing parking and traffic, worker housing, marketing, diversification of economic activity and construction of multi-use recreational fields on top of closed landfills close to their downtowns.

Lake George will begin work on a revitalization strategy for the town, $38,000.

It is important to know that a wide array of projects are in the areas immediately surrounding the ADK Park like Glens Falls, Plattsburgh, Potsdam/Canton, Watertown and Utica.

If we grabbed your interest, we encourage your to read the announcement booklet

The ADK Futures Project is well known to a number of the volunteer members of the Council including the co-chairs, Tony Collins@Clarkson and Gary Douglas@the Nth Country Chamber of Commerce, along with Cali Brooks @ANCA, Randy Douglas@Essex County, Bill Farber@Hamilton County, Kate Fish@ANCA, Jim McKenna@ROOST in Lake Placid, and Senator Betty Little so it is a pleasure for us to see so many projects that align so well to the ADK Futures vision and implementation efforts get funded.

The Role of Manufacturing in the ADK Futures Strategy

A couple of times now when we give our standard talk about the ADK Futures project and the consensus vision, someone asks us why there is no manufacturing in the plan. Although it doesn’t receive strong emphasis, there is mention of manufacturing in the vision.  In the 45 minute version  of the talk it often gets dropped.  But it actually is a big deal.

Many of the areas just outside the Blue Line are experiencing a manufacturing boom.  The Saratoga/Capital region, in particular, is experiencing an incredible high-tech boom in nanotech and semiconductors.  There is the potential for much further expansion there, too.  Meanwhile there is expansion at Bombardier in Plattsburgh and the Army in Ft. Drum and Fage Yogurt  south of the Park in Johnstown. International Paper’s Ticonderoga Mill is in the Park, producing copier and office printer paper. The Finch Pryun mill in Glens Falls produces also produces printing paper.

There are many ways in which the edge towns of the Park that are near these growing areas can benefit from this mini-boom.  Some employees in these new or expanding plants will choose to live in a quieter community with more open space somewhere just over the Blue Line in the Park. Others will want vacation homes in the Park.  Most will at least visit regularly.  The management of some of these new companies in the region may decide to build a Corporate retreat somewhere currently up for sale.  Notice I haven’t even mentioned fracking and its potential economic impact on the southern areas of the Park?

People throughout the Park with broadband Internet access will also be able to participate in various ways in the growth in manufacturing and other jobs in the ring of cities around the Park, as subcontractors and remote employees, or as providers of necessary business back office services.  People can work from home, but also easily show up in the office when necessary.  Some smaller subcontractors may find it cheaper to set up shop in an Adirondack town than in the booming capital region.  With most business interactions being over the Internet anyway, you don’t have to be co-located in the same office Park as your client.

All of this requires getting in front of the people who are hiring and growing these businesses around the edges of the Park in order to promote the region as a place to live, vacation and recreate. Some of the community development organizations around the Park are working on this we’re told. We need to dispel the myth that a business can’t get started inside the Blue Line because of APA and DEC red tape and restrictions. We have industrial parks, waiting. We have a large industrial site in Clifton Fine with fiber trunk line and potentially restored rail freight service.  Information businesses, in particular, should raise no serious environmental concerns.

Inside the Park, we have some light manufacturing that can grow.  Here are some examples. Saranac Lake has several biotech companies.  North Creek has Creative Stage Lighting doing well enough to expand.  In Willsboro, General Composites is a custom manufacturer of hi-end composite components. In Piseco, Wilt Industries fabricates advance annealing ovens to produce, for example, silicon ingots for chip companies like Intel.  Placid Boatworks makes canoes.  Hi-end craftsman make rustic furniture, guide boats and taxidermy.

These are niche businesses.  “Niche” means they are large enough to be real businesses, but their markets don’t attract the 1000 pound guerrillas of industry.  These fit the Park better than large mines and mills, employing many hundreds of people.  When these big business fail or leave, the towns involved crash, often losing 2/3 of their population.  Look at Port Henry, Newcomb, Clifton-Fine – all are case studies.  The Trudeau Sanatorium in Saranac Lake was a huge employer and shut abruptly in the summer of 1954 when effective antibiotics were introduced.  It took decades to the village to get back on its feet.  Light manufacturing, involved in niche markets, is our sweet spot.  But you have to find a lot of them.

Biomass: Some Hype, Some Hope

Usually when the topic of biomass comes up in our various discussions around the Park, everyone is gung ho and nod their heads positively.  Biomass is an important component of the ADK Futures strategy for both lowering our carbon footprint and keeping employment in the forestry sector.  It is also an important component of the North Country Regional Economic Development Strategy.  The Northern Forest Center also has made biomass heating a focus of new market development.  We are told that there is a lot of interest in biomass as a renewable, low net carbon contribution fuel source at the State and Federal level.

So, how big is this new market and how does that compare to our forest’s production?  There are a few researchers who have been looking at the numbers and one we have recently talked with is Dr. Charlie Canham, who is a Senior Scientist at the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies in Millbrook, NY.  Charlie’s detailed work looks at like available supply and at the efficiency with which various kinds of wood supply can be converted to energy of various types. He looks are the entire Northern Forest; State level detail is the best available.  Charlie concludes that, regionally,  only very modest portions, in the 5% range, of most energy markets could be met through biomass fuels, but there are a few that could be more significant. One that is promising is using biomass for heating.  Specifically, base load heating for larger buildings like schools, government offices, prisons, etc.

Because pulpwood prices are so low, and our available wood supply is not sufficient to substitute a lot of fossil fuel, Charlie worries that a real boom in biomass might lead to unsustainable harvesting of forests and that would negate much of the carbon emission benefit of the fuel.  The image of trains loaded with pellets leaving the region come to mind, but it is never going to happen.  Pipeline natural gas will keep the use of biomass contained to areas like the Park with plenty of wood and no gas pipelines.  Also, there are other government estimates that are higher than Charlie’s. So we’re not currently worried about over using our working forest.

The proposed use of biomass in the ADK Futures strategy is actually pretty limited.  We propose to focus on converting from fuel oil to biomass heating systems in the Park using the modern gasifier furnaces that emit little in the way of smoke and pollutants.  We propose to meet the heating needs of the 130,000 people and large buildings within the Blue Line.  Most of the Park is never going to get gas lines, and this makes it a good market for locally sourced biomass as a heating fuel.  The idea that train loads of pellets with head from the region to replace coal in power plants is never going to happen, but biomass will be a great low cost local heating fuel for Park residents.

Using biomass for electrical power production in co-gen facilities is a good thing, but it isn’t likely to do well in plants just generating electricity and dumping the heat – it is too inefficient to compete with hydro power capability in our region.  The ReEnergy project at Ft. Drum is a large 60 Megwatt power plant.  It was built as a coal fired co-gen plant but the steam distribution part of the system failed and has been abandoned.  It will burn wood, including whole tree chips, wood waste from sawmills, crop fuels like willow, and other material like shredded tires. It will probably be a one-of-a-kind facility in the region, although the company has a dozen plants burning various fuels elsewhere.

The other point that Charlie and we agree on is that it is reasonable, over the next 25 years, to expect one or both of the two remaining pulp mills in the region will close.  Their closure won’t be for lack of wood, but for the decline in printing paper markets.  We will need new pulpwood markets just to keep the current logging industry in business.  Luckily biomass heating using pellets requires the same pulpwood now going to our two pulp mills (Ticonderoga and Glens Falls).   We need these markets to buy our low value trees, leaving higher value trees to grow into saw logs for later harvests. Think of these markets as providing funding for weeding our forests periodically.

The best feed stock for biomass heating is pellets produced from pulpwood, not debris from logging operations.  There is an argument that it is best to leave logging debris on the forest floor as the carbon is better sequestered that way and the material decays to provide nutrients for the next generation of trees. It is ugly, but most forest operations are ugly. Removing the entire above ground biomass of a forest may look better, but is not as healthy for the forest.  Finally, logging waste makes lousy dirty fuel and it is expensive to collect.

If the pulp mills close, we can imagine the possibility of re-purposing a pulp mill to synfuel production, similar to ethanol from corn, but that is a long way off.  So, it feels like expanding biomass heating in the Park now is a good way to get us on the path to continued productive use of our working forests in renewable, low carbon energy markets of the future.

There is going to be temptation for many land owners along the way to deviate from sustainable harvesting practices.  Some may be unwise enough to let saw logs get diverted into energy.  The industry, DEC and NYSERDA need to think now about the kinds of monitoring programs that will need to be in place to warn us that we are loosing the carbon emission advantage that we set out to achieve with these conversions.  We also have to win the war against invasive pests that could seriously destroy significant portions of our working forest.

For more info specifically about biomass in the Park, we recommend Jerry Jenkins book, Climate Change in the Adirondacks, The Path to Sustainability, pages 122-125.  Reading this section will answer a lot of questions.

Progress on Broadband

The further development of broadband within the Park received a boost with the announcement of two more grants to extend existing networks of DANC/ION ($3.17m) and Nicholville Telephone, aka SLIC Networks ($2.65m).

Meanwhile, there has been good discussion of the benefits to come from wider deployment of broadband within the region in two posts by Pete Nelson at Adirondack Almanac:

http://www.adirondackalmanack.com/2012/11/lost-brook-dispatches-a-vision-for-adirondack-telecommuting.html

http://www.adirondackalmanack.com/2012/11/lost-brook-dispatches-wild-workers-adirondack-telecommuting-today-and-tomorrow.html#more-29817

In reading these you can learn a lot about how telework is already widely practiced in the region. There is a great website referenced, Adirondack Teleworks, which lists all kinds of telework employment opportunities.  You must register on the site to access the job listings.

Pete has a done a great job of summarizing the benefits of broadband and the vision for it as a basis for significant employment for the region.  The comments to his posts are often from people who are employed remotely.

The Park’s Demographic Challenge

As we read about the way that America’s changing demographics played such a big role in the recent elections, we are reminded of the shifting demographics of New York State and the potential problems it might present to the future of the Park.  The people who live in the Park and the people who visit the Park are largely Caucasian.  But the State of New York and America as a whole is heading toward a day when Caucasians will be less than half of its citizens.  Already there are more non-white babies being born in the State than white.

During the Futures workshops, this issue was one that concerned a lot of people.  With more and more people living and growing up in the big cities, fewer young people are being exposed to nature and even fewer to something like wilderness.  We’ve seen people from the big city come to the mountains and be freaked out by the emptiness and quiet rather than rejuvenated by this natural environment.

The main concern is that the next generation of voters will not be as fully supportive of the Park and its costs to the tax payers.  Also, that the ranks of the environmental movement will be depleted as the boomers pass away.  You can see it with the big land owners in the region who are aging and whose next generation is far less interested in this place than their parents.

Like the Republican Party, we are likely to respond to these changes too little and too late.  Responding means changing the way that we promote and brand the Park to make sure it is multicultural and diverse in its messages and images.  More importantly, it means making an appreciation of nature and the environment an integral part of educating our youth throughout the State.  The NYS Museum in Albany is a critical venue for educating future visitors and supporters of the Park.  Tens of thousands of students come through it every year from all over the State.  The museum is looking to redesign its badly outdated Adirondack displays and we are hoping to work with them to portray the truly amazing environmental achievement we have created in the Adirondack Park, and to make clear that it is something our next generation should be very proud of.