Ticonderoga is not alone. Communities throughout the North Country are struggling to improve their economies. Almost all have similar local groups working on the issue. And there have been state programs, like the now-defunct Empire State Development Zones, that were supposed to spur economic development. Offering tax breaks, loans and other incentives, the EDZ program was supposed to bring major manufacturers and jobs to the North Country. To take full advantage of the program Essex County beefed up its Industrial Development Agency and communities constructed industrial parks awaiting companies. Today, those parks in Ticonderoga, Moriah, Schroon Lake and Keeseville sit mostly empty.
Walking along Main Street in Port Henry recently, Tom Scozzafava could only shake his head.
“I’m frustrated,” the Moriah supervisor admitted. “Our economy is worse now than when the (iron) mines closed in 1972. Look at the businesses that have closed in the last three years. Port Henry’s main street doesn’t have a single business on its east side.
“What do we have to do? Why can’t we attract business here,” Scozzafava asked. “What do we need to do? I don’t have the answer, but I know we need to do a lot of soul searching.”
The loss of Lowe’s is a blow the area economy, but perhaps it’s also an opportunity to do that “soul searching.” What type of economic development does a community want? What type is needed? What type is realistic? Those and many other questions need to be answered, especially before local communities roll out the red carpet for another big box retailer.