Collaboration for a Brighter Future

August 18, 2011 — Dr. Dustin Swanger

Last week, after almost a year of work, a team of people from both Fulton and Montgomery Counties unveiled the Regional Business Development Plan. During the development of the Plan the team collaborated with area CEO’s and with elected officials from each county. Within the Plan there are six goals and several objectives, all designed to move the region forward toward a more progressive and business friendly community. There is a lot to be proud of; however, what is most impressive is the spirit of collaboration that is symbolized by the Plan and that is being embraced through discussions about the Plan.

We are a community of many small cities, towns, and villages. We have school districts, authorities, water districts, etc. too numerous to mention. All of these municipalities and organizations were created when people walked and rode their horses to work or as they completed their daily chores. Transportation was slow and therefore, we created communities that were small and that provided for the local people’s needs. Some people actually lived their entire lives without ever leaving their hometown.  That was then.

Today, we have cars, trucks, buses, etc. We are a mobile society. The result of such mobility is the dispersement of our goods and services. Many places of work are outside of our cities. Shopping has moved to convenient malls and shopping centers. We drive to work, to stores, to restaurants, to school, etc. Today our daily route may take us through several cities and towns to get to where we’re going. Our region has changed. 

Such change requires us to think differently. As we discuss in the Regional Business Development Plan, we MUST think regionally if we are to grow. No company thinks “I need to locate my business in Amsterdam, Johnstown, or Gloversville.” They think, “In what region of the country will my business gain the best advantage?” Our region has many advantages. We are located close to several major markets including New York City, Boston, Montreal, and others. We have an abundance of water (which is in short supply in some places). Land cost is reasonable. We are near the Capital Region, quickly becoming a major “high technology” development area. We have a great deal to offer.

In order for us to leverage these assets into attractions for companies, we (all of us local folk) have to collaborate. We must reduce barriers to development. We cannot afford to withhold water or sewer services. We cannot worry about which town or city will gain the most from development. We have to see the region as one to be developed and grown.

I understand the financial issues of providing services outside of one’s municipality while not receiving the benefit of taxes from the recipient. However, regional growth will benefit everyone. Our growth cannot be constrained by what are, effectively, artificial boundaries.  If we cannot collaborate across these manmade boundaries, perhaps it is time to remove them. 

Good things happen when people collaborate. Through the collaboration of the two counties, Fulton-Montgomery Community College was established. Through collaboration we can create a community that is progressive, that is business friendly, that provides social venues for a variety of lifestyles, that provides a diverse housing stock for its residents, that retains its youth, and that grows. Only collaboration will move our region forward.

Dr. Dustin Swanger is President of FM.

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