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State funding to bolster workforce, economy

PLATTSBURGH The North Country workforce is expected to benefit greatly from state funding following an announcement from one of New Yorks top officials. In her visit to the city of Plattsburgh last week, New York State Department of Labor Commissioner M. Patricia Smith announced nearly $26 million in strategic investments across the state to help train workers and revitalize local economies. Of that amount, $795,000 will directly benefit the North Country region. The funding will consist of $500,000 to promote emerging and significant industries in areas such as renewable energy, aerospace and transportation; $195,000 for internship programs; and $100,000 for the Plattsburgh-North Country Chamber of Commerce to promote on-the-job training. The need to financially support workforce development is imperative, said Smith, who noted federal funding for such efforts has decreased dramatically in the last 30 years. In 1978, the federal government invested $9.5 billion in workforce training at a time when a high school diploma would almost guarantee a graduate a job, she said. However, the federal government now invests only $3.3 billion, at a time when continuing education is more crucial and when experts say that investment should total $30 billion. Thats a 90 percent decrease, when we now compete in a global economy, said Smith. This is why we need to be strategic in the workforce dollars that we have. The continuation of funding to the Plattsburgh-North Country Chamber of Commerce for its on-the-job training program is one way in which that can be accomplished, said chamber of commerce executive vice president Jody Parks. The funding has already made a huge difference in the North Country, said Parks, stating it was a key part of the discussions with Nova Bus, a transit bus assembly corporation in the process of establishing a manufacturing facility in the town of Plattsburgh. When we meet with companies, one of the first things they ask us is how we are going to be able to help them with their workforce recruitment needs, said Parks. Thanks to the commissioner, the governor and the State Department of Labor, we have an answer to that question. It wouldnt matter if we had the greatest facilities and the great incentives in the world, she added. If we cant provide them with a good workforce, theyre still not going to come. This allows us to truly compete with other areas. Already, funding from the state has been used to establish a partnership between the chamber of commerce and Clarkson University to provide satellite engineering classes in Plattsburgh. Other institutions that will benefit from the funding include Clinton Community College, which has reestablished an electrical technology training program, and CV-TEC, which is establishing the Plattsburgh Aeronautical institute, slated to open in the fall of 2009. North Country Workforce Investment Board executive director Paul A. Grasso Jr. said such funding is critical for our region to attract, attain and retain talent. We also need people in our region of responsibility and authority to create challenging professional opportunities that would encourage young people to stay in the area, Grasso said. This is the first generation, I think, since the sixties and seventies who have a strong desire to be able to look back at the end of their careers with pride in having changed the world in some significant way. We need to nurture the sense of hope this generation, because they really are the future.

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