"Tax cuts and incentives for small businesses would be amazing, go for it," he said, referring to a Adirondack economic development zone proposed by the Adirondack Caucus legislators. "There are no really good-paying jobs here."
Holding his seven-month-old son, Jim Kearney of Brant Lake said Adirondack communities desperately needed not only decent jobs and wages, but affordable housing.
"My family can't afford life in the Adirondacks," he said, noting that others in his generation couldn't afford to make a reasonable living here. "We need affordable housing programs - not a handout, but a helping hand to get into a house."
The testimony of Berry, Burch and Kearney was underscored by a presentation that launched the forum.
Report details problems in Adirondacks
Municipal planner Jim Martin and Brad Dake, both of Saratoga Springs, presented a summary of the Adirondack Regional Assessment Project, which recently revealed that youth are fleeing the Adirondacks for greater opportunity elsewhere, school enrollment is sinking fast, and Adirondackers are saddled with low prevailing wages, limited job opportunities and expensive housing.
The study results also indicate that Adirondack residents are relatively poor, aging and undereducated, and that jobs are primarily provided by schools and municipalities. In addition, detailed maps devised in the Assessment Project showed that more land than ever was under strict state control - and that the job and income problems were most severe in the core areas of the Adirondacks.
Lorraine Duvall of Keene, however, said she was concerned that the project data might be used improperly to curb preservationist efforts, because the problems detailed were shared by most all rural U.S. communities.
"Let's not blame this on the Adirondack Park," she said. "Let's remember as we talk economic development, that the best thing we have to sell is the environment."
But Neil McGovern of Lake Pleasant disagreed, noting that the project's map and data showed that merely 0.4 percent of the land in the Adirondacks is reserved for hamlets where it can be developed with minimal restriction.