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The Upstate Brain Drain

This September, I began the fourth year since my retirement from public education as an elementary school principal time does fly by! After nineteen years as a schoolteacher and fourteen as an administrator, the return to school had become an expected event and annual ritual. I will continue to teach evening classes at PSU this fall, something I have done for nineteen years, and that will help satisfy my desire to teach and remain involved in the education of young people.

Recently, we have been hearing about a brain drain taking place in New York State. On Sept. 18, New Yorks First Lady, Silda Wall Spitzer, will hold a summit at SUNY Cortland to address the brain-drain problem. Apparently, young people are leaving New York State because they cannot find good jobs. The first lady is working to better understand this migration and identify what can be done about it. This past May, New York State Labor Commissioner M. Patricia Smith came to Plattsburgh to address a group of us at the Chamber of Commerce Government Affairs Breakfast Forum. She also expressed her concern and views on the topic.

As an educator in the area for a number of years, and the father of three children, I am confident there are plenty of good young brains in the region. We have fine public schools in our area as well as excellent programs at the Champlain Valley Educational Services, Clinton Community College and Plattsburgh State. The area trades also offer excellent apprentice programs for young people.

Unfortunately, it appears the lack of good paying jobs and a quality of life that provides for the social, recreational and entertainment needs of this generation is encouraging them to leave the state. This, along with high taxes and a challenging state to do business in, is pushing young people out. No community can be all things to all people, but to remain competitive with a ready work force and to attract business and economic development, we must also consider what attracts and keeps young people and working families in a region.

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