May 17, 2012 — Dr. Dustin Swanger
It is no secret that I have a firm belief that Fulton and Montgomery Counties must think regionally if we are going to compete for growth and progress in this economy. And yes, I believe that we have too many governments, authorities, school districts, etc. for the roughly 50,000 people in each county. However, we can think, and act, regionally, without having to take the huge leap of eliminating municipalities. We can do so through collaboration.
Fulton-Montgomery Community College is the result of regional thinking. Through a moment of lowering barriers and focusing on what would advance the region, a college was created that today, is strong and strives to serve the region in numerous ways.
Time and time again, we have seen that collaboration brings results that are far better than single entities can do by themselves. The recent vote by the members of the Fulton County and Montgomery County Chambers of Commerce to merge into one larger Chamber is a sign that collaboration can happen. The new Chamber will be the third largest in New York State. In past, Catholic Charities merged its two single county operations and now is a strong operation, stronger than many others. Additionally, the Fulmont Action Association is a strong not-for-profit in our region. These are just a few examples as there are others.
Thinking regionally will allow us to market to potential companies that we are here; we have the resources to meet their needs; we want them to be a part of our community; and we work together well for the betterment of our area. This is a far better message than those of bickering over water, sewer, and other issues created by man-made borders.
If we could begin to think regionally, local municipalities could get together now to discuss shared resources and costs rather than in the heat of the moment when a company is trying to expand, locate, or just stay in the region. Those calm and thoughtful discussions could take place with an eye toward making the region better for all of us, city and town dwellers alike.
It is my belief that focusing on regional thinking does, in fact, improve the lifestyles of everyone in the region whether they live in the cities, towns, or villages. By bringing jobs to the region, by supporting progress, by sending a business friendly message, we advance the entire region. By focusing on our small municipalities, we see the deterioration of our region, our cities, our towns, etc. Look at Amsterdam, Gloversville, and Johnstown today compared to six years ago; they are struggling. However, it is not too late. Each of these cities has the potential for a rebirth. I believe that taking a longer view and supporting regional thinking is the foundation for that rebirth of the cities.
The cities can be, and should be, the hub of social life in our region. Focusing on restaurants, coffee shops, small specialty stores, and social gathering experiences will be the rebirth of the cities as part of regional development. Collaboration will be key to that development.
Just as FM was born by a regional vision, this region can grow strong through regional thinking. Parochial thinking will eventually cause our collapse.
Dr. Swanger is President of FM.