Annual Progress Report 2021
PANDEMIC: The North Country continued its 2020 commitments related to the COVID-19 pandemic throughout 2021, centered on information, guidance, direct assistance and advocacy. The over-arching aim of "leaving no business behind" continued to infuse all of our departments and endeavors. We have directly interacted with and assisted thousands of businesses and organizations across our region and continue to do so. This commitment was further expanded in the summer with a $100,000 contract from Empire State Development to provide twelve months of training and technical assistance for the regional small business community, including hands-on assistance in securing State Pandemic Recovery Small Business Grants as well as other forms of available state and federal support for all eligible enterprises. Our vaccination promotion activities also continued throughout the year, including PSA's and vaccination webinars.
- Our Chamber has continued to be an active and widely noticed and quoted advocate for progress on northern border restrictions. We elicited strong support from Senators Schumer and Gillibrand (including media events), Rep. Elise Stefanik and the Congressional Northern Border Caucus, Assemblyman Billy Jones and Sen. Dan Stec, and others. In July, significant progress was achieved in creating a pathway for vaccinated Americans to enter Canada. This in part following collaboration with our Canadian partners including the FCCQ (with whom we co-hosted a virtual Border Forum with Rep. Stefanik and former Quebec Premier Jean Charest), as well as high level outreach to the Quebec and Ontario Governments.
- In relation to continued border restrictions, we provided assistance to many North Country businesses in clarifying ”essential travel" definitions and helping to gain access for key personnel. We also worked with U.S. Customs and Border Protection at Champlain to help arrange extended staffing at the CBP boat dock in Rouses Point to help facilitate the movement by commercial pilots of hundreds of Canadian boats into the U.S. with owners flying to Plattsburgh.
- After a decade of strong and active support for the Hydro-Quebec/Champlain Hudson Power Express Project and its planned major hydro electric transmission line below water from Quebec to N.Y.C., state approval was secured in September from Gov. Hochul. This is the largest electricity export contract ever done by Quebec and will substantially build the Quebec-New York economic connection.
- We hosted a visit by new U.S. Consul General in Montreal Ana Escrogima, with a leadership roundtable and a tour of Nova Bus. It was the elevation of an important working collaboration.
- We welcomed new Quebec Delegate General Martine Hebert including a roundtable, plant visits and an address at the 2021 Chamber Retreat, solidifying an important partnership between the Chamber and the Delegation General in N.Y.
- We joined with the Canadian Consulate General in N.Y.C. in conducting two highly successful International Trade Weeks -- one in the spring and a second in the fall. Each featured three separate days of virtual programming in support of cross border commerce and investment.
- We continued our Red Carpet "Succeeding in the U.S." workshops for Quebec companies through virtual sessions in 2021 with strong participation. These continued to be conducted in partnership with the Chamber of Commerce of Metropolitan Montreal and with the FCCQ, as well as sessions as needed with individual companies.
- We actively assisted the Can/Am Border Trade Alliance in organizing and conducting a successful virtual conference May 3-4.
- Our area achieved recognition in the spring from fDi Magazine (Financial Times of London) as #14 among the Top 20 Cities of the Future in all of the Americas for "Foreign Direct Investment Strategy."
- We officially completed and launched our major new economic development and FDI website:
- We have continued to actively assist ERS Investments in redevelopment and repositioning of the former Pfizer site in Rouses Point, including playing an active role in attracting a French computer company: 2CRSi.
- We worked successfully with Swarovski/Schonbek in the successful sale and transition of Plattsburgh's Schonbek manufacturing operations to WAC Lighting.
- We worked successfully with Smardt Chillers to obtain expansion of their Plattsburgh operations, including new distribution activities and the relocation of their technician training program from Montreal to Plattsburgh. We continue to work with them on potential major expansion plans for 2022.
- We were pleased to take part in the groundbreaking for a major plant expansion by AgriMark/McCadam Cheese in Chateaugay following several years of assisting the company with state funding support.
- We continue to work with a major developer of electric vertical lift aircraft on future production plans which would include substantial activities at Plattsburgh International Airport.
- We actively collaborated with the Lake Champlain-Lake George Regional Planning Board in the creation of a federally funded plan for regional economic development in the wake of the pandemic. Among other elements, the final plan spotlights and makes "action item" recommendations related to broadband/cell service, affordable housing, childcare services and our region's manufacturing clusters.
- The Chamber has remained a key advocate for the proposed Harison Place downtown housing and redevelopment project in Malone.
- We have continued to support hotel development in key areas of the region, including completion and opening of the Saranac Waterfront Lodge in Saranac Lake, evolving plans for a hotel in Tupper Lake, project approval for a new hotel in place of the Quality Inn in Lake Placid, and attraction of an interested developer for a possible hotel on the City of Plattsburgh lakefront.
We secured New York State funding in 2021 for revival of the Chamber of Commerce On the Job Training Program.
We secured $153,125 in grant funding from the State Labor Dept. under the Unemployed and Underemployed Worker Training Program.
- We secured another round of funding from the USDA for continued supervisory training for our manufacturers.
- We resumed our bi-annual Job Fairs with a live event in September.
- We facilitated the signing of an important new Partnership Agreement between Clarkson University and Clinton Community College/Institute for Advanced Manufacturing.
- We helped to organize a resumed Manufacturing Day for area manufacturers, educators and high school students in 2021 at the CCC Institute for Advanced Manufacturing.
NAMTRANS/TRANSPORTATION EQUIPMENT & AEROSPACE:
- Our NAmTrans cluster initiative has blossomed and grown strongly during 2021 including news sharing, social media, the production of a number of workforce related videos at company sites, a major Fuse Hub Transportation Equipment virtual conference, and the launch of a regular radio program on WIRY. The initiative also continues to provide valuable direct support services for the cluster companies including in the areas of contracting, supply chains, skills development, and problem solving.
- The Chamber arranged virtual meetings in early 2021 for Nova Bus executives with both Sen. Tim Kennedy, Chair of the State Senate Transportation Committee, and Bill Magnarelli, Chair of the Assembly Transportation Committee. In August, we organized and hosted a Plattsburgh visit by Chairman Kennedy that included tours of Nova Bus, Alstom, and Norsk Titanium, with a number of continuing follow-ups.
- In September, we organized and hosted a timely visit to Nova Bus and to Smardt Chillers by State Environmental Conservation Commissioner Basil Seggos, a key leader in the state's evolving clean/green agenda.
- We successfully transitioned our long-time working relationships with Bombardier Transportation to Alstom during and following the acquisition.
- The Chamber secured $250,000 through Assemblyman Billy Jones for continued support for NAmTrans as well as for Quebec-New York initiatives and activities.
- In addition to extensive small business support related to the pandemic, we conducted an extensive series of small business webinars on a variety of topics.
- Our Health Insurance services continued to provide special value to small business throughout our region especially during the pandemic and now in the face of a workforce crunch requiring consideration of benefits.
- Our SCORE Branch continued to provide valuable mentoring and counseling services, and transitioned as of October back to SCORE's New York State operation from Vermont.
- We quickly and effectively transitioned relationships at all levels of state government as Governor Kathy Hochul succeeded her predecessor. Communications and working relations are clear and active.
- As a member of the 5-member Executive Committee of Upstate United, we assisted in the successful transition from Unshackle Upstate to Upstate United, and were a part of UU Days in Albany with a number of key legislators in March.
- We hosted a roundtable for State Senator Jeremy Cooney of Rochester, Chair of the Senate Cities 2 Committee, aimed at clarifying the needs of small and medium upstate cities. A valuable on-going relationship was established with Sen. Cooney.
- We conducted a successful virtual State Legislative Forum in February, and also a successful virtual State of the County, City and Town event. As a follow-up, the Chamber hosted the official signing of the City and Town of Plattsburgh Compact on April 6.
- We arranged and hosted virtual forums in the spring with then Lt. Governor Kathy Hochul, State Attorney General Letitia James, Senator Charles Schumer, and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand.
- We hosted a roundtable with the President of the Federal Reserve New York on the status and needs of the North Country economy.
- We actively advocated for priority content in the federal Infrastructure Bill including robust funding for broadband and cell service and for airports.
- We helped to develop and then actively advocated for several priority federal earmark funding requests now pending as part of the 2022 appropriations process in Congress.
- We successfully grew Chamber membership in 2021, contrary to the experience of most Chambers in the U.S. With 2021 being one our most successful years to date.
We very successfully transitioned several major events to virtual formats including the 2021 Annual Dinner and the 2021 St. Patrick's Day Breakfast.
- We then transitioned several events back to in-person formats, including Women in Business and Taste of the North Country - with success.
- Communications, including "Today's Dose", have strengthened communications and interactions with our regional members in every respect.
- Finances remained remarkably strong. This included new state and federal grants, membership growth, successful events, and two rounds of the federal PPP forgivable loan program.
- Through the pandemic, our relationship with our twelve Partner Community Chambers reached new heights in terms of activity, substance and collaboration on services.
- Our Adirondack Coast fully executed its extensive and flexible tourism marketing plan in 2021, enjoying considerable success in attracting visitors from downstate and elsewhere in partial replacement of our much missed Canadian visitors.
We secured and successfully oversaw five major bass fishing tournaments on Lake Champlain as well as the return of the East Coast Watercross National Championships.
- Wrote and presented a comprehensive 2022 marketing plan for a return of Canadian visitations.