By now I'm sure everyone has heard a lot about the proposal to develop a resort-casino at Exit 27 in Amsterdam - a project that we can refer to as "Destination 27."
I also would imagine most have heard of all the economic benefits that would result by locating a casino in our region, not just for the Amsterdam area, but that the benefits would extend throughout Fulton and Montgomery counties. And you may have also heard that the Destination 27 developers had asked the State Gaming Commission's Gaming Facility Location Board of Directors for some concessions, but were denied the request. And, finally, you probably heard that, despite that rejection from the state, the developers have enough faith in our region, and in the project, to forge ahead with the proposal.
The state, in making its decision as to where each of the four designated casinos will be sited in upstate New York will look at several key factors, and will evaluate how each proposal submitted to them addresses these factors. A few of these determinants are:
Looking at each of these key points individually, we will first address economic need. No one can dispute that for far too long, Fulton and Montgomery Counties have led the state in high unemployment. The estimated 450 construction jobs needed to build the project, and 850 or more permanent jobs that are likely to be hired after construction is complete would go a long way to change these dire unemployment statistics. The annual average wage of the jobs created by the casino is estimated to be $42,000. Keep in mind that the current average wage in Montgomery County is $23,000 year. No one can dispute that this project will be a strong economic driver, with a trickle-down effect affording many of our residents greater opportunity to spend their earned dollars at our local merchants, restaurants, car dealers, and even purchasing their own homes. The economic significance would not be limited to the communities on which the project would be located, but would extend outward throughout the Fulton and Montgomery County region.
Secondly, let's address the size and scope of the project and its ability to draw large numbers of visitors to our region. Based upon plans presented by the project developers, this casino-resort would truly qualify as a destination resort. With two golf courses, world-class food and entertainment, shops, nature trails, and even a farmers market, there is little doubt that this will draw thousands of visitors from throughout the Northeastand beyond. A great many of these visitors will not confine themselves to the casino-resort property, but certainly will venture out to our region's businesses providing revenue for them that will help reinvigorate our communities.
Thirdly, let's look at the ease of access of the project. What needs to be said? Situated right at Exit 27 off of the New York State Thruway, I can say with certainty that no one could possibly get lost! This is undoubtedly the easiest access of any casino proposal out there.
Finally, our community supports the project. There has been no community in which there has been so much support for a project like this. At the last two public hearings about this proposed project, every comment made was in full support of the project. Surely, this is a sign that the residents and businesses of our communities are unified in their full support, and embrace of, this Destination 27 project. This unanimous support has not been seen in any other community/location that is proposing a casino at this time.
The Destination 27 application will move forward, but let's not allow the momentum to stop. Continued support is crucial if this great opportunity is to become a reality.
To that end, on Tuesday a "Ye$ to Casino" parade and rally is being organized to show Albany and the whole State that this is the place to build a casino.
Everyone is encouraged to participate and support the Destination 27 project. Community groups, clubs, custom cars, motorcycles, and individuals are welcome to join us.
We are meeting at 5 p.m. at the William B. Tecler Arts in Education Magnet School, 210 Northern Blvd. in Amsterdam and will "parade" to Shuttleworth Park, a short walk from the school, where there will be a Rally. As an added bonus, everyone who participates in the Ye$ to Casino Parade and Rally will get free admission to the Amsterdam Mohawks game which will start after the rally.
Remember, our chances are greater of landing a casino-resort with a strong showing of community support, so come out and help make Amsterdam, and the Fulton Montgomery Region the best bet!
Mark Kilmer is the president of the Fulton Montgomery Regional Chamber of Commerce.