JOHNSTOWN - The chairman of the Fulton County Center for Regional Growth Board of Directors wants the agency to be "heavily represented" at a proposed symposium this fall on revitalizing business in area cities
CRG board Chairman Dustin Swanger discussed the symposium at a board meeting Thursday at the Johnstown Professional Office Complex. He said the agency also needs to stay pro-active in the face of high unemployment rates in the area.
"I'm still hearing there are companies looking for people to work," Swanger said.
Swanger, president of Fulton-Montgomery Community College, noted he wears many hats in the area. They include chamber of commerce work, BOCES and with the CEO Roundtable.
He told the CRG board the "challenge" now is to determine and "focus" on whether area people are prepared for the work that is available.
In April, Swanger also called for formation of a committee to complete a business plan within six months.
Fulton County ranked No. 1 in May unemployment among New York's 57 upstate counties and Montgomery County was No. 3.
Swanger said the CEO Roundtable -an area volunteer group supporting business initiatives - is planning an October symposium posing the question: "How do you revitalize small cities?" He said the hope is representatives of cities similar to Gloversville, Johnstown and Amsterdam "that have turned themselves around" can attend. He mentioned cities such as Auburn and Glens Falls.
"We're also talking about a panel of developers," he stated.
CRG Chief Executive Officer Michael Reese said he's been working with Montgomery County Economic Development and Planning Director Kenneth Rose about the May unemployment rates. He said Fulton County has averaged over 14,100 people employed in the private sector - a figure that hasn't deviated too much, with the high point being 14,800 employed in 2007 before the last recession.
Reese said Fulton County has "fared really well" the last five or six recessions since the 1950s by diversifying its economy.
Swanger said there's a "myth about manufacturing" that it continues to be like in the 1950s - "dirty, loud, dangerous, mindless and smelly."
"The reality is modern manufacturing is very different," Swanger said.
He said the hope is to put together a "marketing piece" or video the CRG can use to promote the county and show off real and local modern-day, cleaner and more high-tech manufacturing. He said interest in tooling and machining studies at FMCC is on the rise.
"I hope you're not overlook the trades," said Perth Supervisor Greg Fagan.
Fagan said there's a need for electrical, plumbing, heating-ventilation-air conditioning, and refrigeration workers.
"I'd like that to be in the mix," he told the CRG. "Those jobs are there and they don't go away."
Swanger said he would like to offer an associate's degree in trades at FMCC, but there are limitations. He said you need space and equipment.
"They're expensive to start and expensive to run," Swanger said.
Michael Anich covers Johnstown and Fulton County news. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org