PLATTSBURGH - When looking to the future of the North Country, John E. Jablonski finds great promise.
Jablonski, who serves as president of Clinton Community College, began taking a hard look at the region's years ahead following a forum hosted last November by The Development Corporation, an organization focused on enhancing economic development. The "Vision 2040" forum, explained Jablonski, consisted of getting various members of the community together with one specific objective in mind - discussing the future of Clinton County.
"The idea was to take us out of the here and now, dealing with what's occupying our time and energy, and think about the future," said Jablonski.
The forum unveiled what Jablonski called "startling projections" that showed, if following today's current demographic trends, the North Country could face a grim future.
"Based on current trends, in the year 2040, it's believed the North Country would not be able to sustain itself," said Jablonski, "simply because there won't be enough people in the most productive years of their career to sustain the economy and the quality of life here."
The trends, explained Jablonski, are based on lower birth rates being seen today, as well as the number of educated young people leaving the North Country for more metropolitan areas. The latter of the two has come to be referred to as "brain drain," said Jablonski, and is something he feels can be turned around, given a concerted effort of the community.
"We all really have a choice here," said Jablonski. "We can accept what's dealt to us and just go passively along or we can try to change the course to something that's more desirable. If we do, what begins to happen then, is we begin an upward spiral."
The key to turning the ship around, said Jablonski, rests with three main focuses - workforce development, economic development and increasing the quality of life in the region, which he refers to as community development. Having more and more highly-skilled workers - thanks to places like CV-Tec and institutions of higher learning such as Clinton Community College and the State University of New York at Plattsburgh - is something Jablonski feels will enhance economic development for the region.