Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Diana Palmer: Join forces on economic development

By Diana Palmer, Special to The Chronicle

In the last two years, several businesses have closed or announced closings in the Glens Falls region, resulting in approximately 1100 lost jobs and wide speculation on which large employer may be next.

At the same time, Warren County, the town of Queensbury and soon the City of Glens Falls are all renewing planning efforts through the creation of new comprehensive plans.

Our region must use this inflection point to take a proactive approach to planning for economic development.

When AngioDynamics explained their closure, one of the primary issues CEO Jim Clemmer highlighted was a workforce shortage saying there were “perpetual vacancies” and difficulty “being able to find people that are willing to come in and be here and live here and grow their families here.”

There are many potential reasons that have been proposed for this worker shortage — an aging population, lack of housing, NYS regulations that are unfriendly to businesses and high taxes that drive people away.

There has been far less emphasis on what resources we already have that can be part of the solution. We have a valuable asset in our local community college, which can be a major driver of retaining and recruiting industry through workforce development programs. The college already has successful partnerships with multiple local industry partners.

There is broad bipartisan support for flexible education and training programs of different lengths and delivery methods that put people to work and supply businesses with the employees they need.

Last week, I attended a Community College National Legislative Summit in Washington DC. I listened to Energy Secretary Granholm discuss clean energy jobs and the workforce training needed to fill the more than 400 factories that are opening or expanding throughout the country.

In meetings at the Departments of Labor and Commerce, I heard repeated calls for community partnerships between industry, local government, and community colleges — partnerships that these departments have been funding through multiple economic development grants or programs that emphasize collaboration.

Sitting in these meetings as both a community college trustee and a local government official, I was interested in the difference we would make if we worked together to tackle these issues.

When I asked about examples of successful collaborations, a representative from the Department of Commerce told me about a microelectronics bootcamp in Nashua, NH.

The municipality and a local manufacturing business had partnered to seek CHIPs act funding to launch a bootcamp at their local community college and had been able to expand company operations and increase their workforce. In addition, the program had created social mobility for students who could graduate with good paying jobs.

It’s true that we need housing at all levels, but building housing needs to be part of a larger plan.

In some cases, Municipal contributions to Federal grant applications can come in the form of zoning changes that make it possible to create more housing.

We could, for example, work with an industry partner that wants to expand or relocate operations here and discuss building a workforce training program around their needs and a housing plan that includes zoning updates.

Instead of railing against NYS policies that we are unlikely to change at the local level or lamenting our aging population, let’s harness our resources and planning efforts to work on the issues we have within our control
Older workers need to be reskilled to meet the new economy’s workforce needs too. Registered Apprenticeship programs can be sponsored by a community college or an industry partner to create a pipeline of skilled workers to retain or attract industry and create economic opportunity for residents who want to live and work here.

Federal funds and bipartisan support for workforce development training have created an open policy window for local governments and community colleges to work together to plan for our economic future. We can prepare for clean energy jobs, reskill workers to meet the ever-changing needs of the new economy, and plant seeds for years of economic growth through collaboration.

Editor’s note: Diana Palmer represents Ward 3 on the Glens Falls Common Council and is a member of the SUNY Adirondack board of trustees.

Copyright © 2024 Lone Oak Publishing Co., Inc. All Rights Reserved

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