Annual Progress Report 2022
The North Country Chamber continued its 2020 commitments related to the COVID-19 pandemic throughout 2022, centered on information, guidance, direct assistance, and advocacy. The over-arching aim of "leaving no business behind" continued to infuse all of our departments and efforts. We once again interacted with and assisted hundreds of businesses and organizations across our region. With re-opening processes completed in 2021, 2022 focused heavily on directly assisting businesses in identifying and obtaining various forms of state and federal financial relief they had not yet availed themselves of. This included active outreach, informational webinars and technical assistance sessions related to New York State's Pandemic Recovery Small Business Grants as well as accessing the federal Employee Retention Tax Credit. Several million dollars in financial support were obtained for individual businesses who would not have obtained this funding otherwise.
Advocacy for normalization of U.S.-Canada border crossings was a key priority throughout 2022. Our Chamber continued to be an active and widely noticed and quoted proponent of progress. We elicited continued strong support from U.S. federal and New York State officials as well as from allies in Canada, succeeding in the reduction and elimination of remaining restrictions and mandates. Key milestones included Canada's elimination of border crossing COVID tests and quarantines on April 1 and then Canada dropping the ArriveCAN app mandate and all remaining restrictions at land borders as of October 1. Concurrent marketing and outreach starting in March resulted in Champlain seeing 70% of car levels from 2019 in April, compared with 50% across most of the border.
- We continued our active Partnership with the Chamber of Commerce of Metropolitan Montreal (CCMM), including conducting several virtual sessions of our "Doing Business in the U.S." workshop for Quebec companies. We also continued our active Partnership with the Federation of Chambers of Commerce of Québec (FCCQ), including collaboration on joint programs and advocacy and the first live "Doing Business in the U.S." workshop since before the pandemic in Quebec.
- We actively promoted and supported final approvals from New York State for the Champlain Hudson Power Express Project which will now see construction next year, tapping ample clean hydroelectricity in Quebec for New York. We also now serve on a Green Energy Fund advisory board for the award over the next few years of $40 million in workforce training grants as a related commitment by HydroQuebec and Transmission Developers.
- Through Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, we established a relationship with U.S. Ambassador to Canada Marc Cohen, including a roundtable with him in Montreal focused on our Quebec-New York clean energy/green transportation equipment opportunities.
- We played an active role in the initial planning stages in 2022 for the new Rouses Point Port of Entry to be constructed in 2024 with federal infrastructure dollars we helped to secure through Sen. Schumer. We will continue to monitor progress and provide advice on evolving designs.
- We once again co-organized and co-sponsored International Trade Days in collaboration with the Canadian Consulate General in N.Y.C. and with U.S. Customs & Border Protection.
- Chamber President Garry Douglas was a presenter at the annual meeting of the Council of State Governments East in New Hampshire, speaking on the state of the U.S.-Canada relationship and border and steps needed to recover from the pandemic related restrictions. The session was co-chaired by Assemblyman Billy Jones.
- We advocated actively and effectively through 2022 for resumption of Amtrak's Adirondack train service to and from Montreal.
- We actively facilitated a transition plan for the future of the Can/Am Border Trade Alliance.
- We have continued to conduct tailored Red-Carpet sessions for both Canadian and U.S. companies interested in our area, as well as several sessions for current companies contemplating expansions here.
- We helped to host a visit to Nova Bus by Governor Kathy Hochul, marking a heightened place for our transportation equipment cluster in the state's clean energy/green transportation agenda. Following this landmark visit, we organized and hosted a full day visit by eight key members of the Governor's Transportation, Energy, Economic Development and Environment staff to Nova Bus, Alstom, and BETA Technologies, and then organized and hosted a similar visit by NYSERDA President Doreen Harris. We also facilitated a dialogue between BETA and Senator Schumer's staff re: Defense related opportunities going forward, and a visit to BETA and Smardt Chillers by Rep. Elise Stefanik.
- We worked actively with the Lake Champlain-Lake George Regional Planning Board on the drafting of a federally funded post-pandemic economic recovery and revitalization plan, with active follow-ups in areas such as broadband and affordable housing.
- We prioritized and advocated actively and successfully for substantial state housing funds for the Harison Place Project in downtown Malone and the Saranac Lofts Project in downtown Saranac Lake.
- After several years of advocacy in Albany, rehabilitation of the Adirondack Railroad infrastructure from Remsen to Tupper Lake was completed and the first two passenger carrying tourism trains arrived at Tupper Lake station.
- We continued our active support for the South Junction Enterprises rail yard in Plattsburgh, helping to again restore key service levels by CP Rail and joining in welcoming the operation's 500th railcar.
- We welcomed Empire State Development CEO Hope Knight on two occasions in 2022. One visit included tours at Nova Bus, Norsk Titanium and BETA Technologies, and the other was as the keynote speaker at the Chamber's Annual Strategic Planning Retreat.
- We have continued to work with Fort Ticonderoga on federal and state funding for various projects, joining in the dedication in 2022 of the fully restored Pavilion and securing a Congressional earmark. Further proposals are underway for 2023.
- We have maintained our SCORE small business counseling service in conjunction with the SCORE regional chapter in Albany.
- We continued our longstanding and popular Workplace Safety Training Program, as well as regular workshops and services for human resources/employment professionals.
- We have continued to participate in regional workforce planning and coordination, including service on the North Country Workforce Development Board and its Workforce Partnership, CV-TEC's Advisory Board, and the Advisory Board for Clinton Community College's Institute for Advanced Manufacturing.
- We obtained a $285,600 grant from the federal Northern Border Regional Commission for a specialized welding training program with Clinton Community College for several area manufacturers.
- With facilitation by Rep. Elise Stefanik, we helped to coordinate a new workforce development initiative between Xometry and Clinton Community College; assisted with an important new partnership between CCC and Lincoln Electric; and coordinated the signing of an updated Partnership Agreement between CCC and Clarkson University.
- Through Senator Charles Schumer and Rep. Elise Stefanik, we have tentatively secured a $500,000 Congressional appropriation for a new and much expended Chamber of Commerce On the Job Training Program.
- We have secured a workforce training grant for activities in collaboration with Akwesasne (St. Regis Mohawk Tribal Council) and the Ticonderoga Area Chamber.
- We played a leading role in another successful Manufacturing Day at Clinton Community College in November.
- We again conducted two Job Fairs for area employers and jobseekers.
- We quickly and effectively established a collaborative relationship with the New Presidents of both Paul Smith's College and Clarkson University.
- We have continued to play a leading role in the advocacy work of Upstate United, including meetings with key State Legislators and members of the Governor's staff, the development of positions and white papers on key issues, and endorsements in November based on performance. We also lead UU efforts to develop an outline of recommendations to the Governor for the deployment of federal broadband funding, and recommendations for changes to state small business grant efforts to enhance effectiveness and access.
- We conducted our Annual Issue Survey which was broadly distributed and used to support various advocacy efforts during 2022.
- We conducted another successful New York State Legislative Breakfast and another successful State of the County, City and Town event.
- We arranged for meetings in Albany between key Adirondack partners and both State Senate Majority Leader Stewart-Cousins and Assembly Speaker Heastie.
- We conducted another successful and impactful North Country Days in Washington for the first time since before the pandemic, including key in-person meetings with Senate Majority Leader Schumer, Senator Gillibrand, Congresswoman Stefanik, and the Governor's Washington staff.
- We helped to coordinate two visits to the area by Senate Majority Leader Schumer -- one to CVPH in Plattsburgh and the other to Saranac Lake for a roundtable. We also participated in a visit to Plattsburgh City Hall by Senator Gillibrand.
- We worked actively with the Canadian Consulate General and with the Quebec Government on several matters of concern involving the State in 2022.
PLATTSBURGH INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT:
- We continued to be contracted by the Clinton County Legislature to engage in marketing and economic development services for the airport, including helping to secure federal EAS approval for Contour service to Philadelphia and the official launch event in July. We also continue to serve as the primary public contact point for information.
- We remain strongly engaged in advocacy efforts aimed at converting PBG to a regular Customs Port of Entry in 2023, relieving the county of some $600,000 in annual expenses for current Customs operations.
- We again marketing Plattsburgh International Airport and our regional Transportation Equipment & Aerospace Cluster at the Farnborough International Air Show in July.
- We continued our active partnership with Aero Montreal, including exhibiting at the Aero Montreal Innovation Forum, generating contacts and prospects for follow-up.
- We worked actively with BETA Technologies to establish and facilitate key contacts in Washington and Albany, and to build a foundation for New York State support for their Plattsburgh plans.
- NAmTrans (North American Center of Excellence for Transportation Equipment) grew substantially in 2022 as a major source of support for our growing cluster of transportation related manufacturers, including staging a highly successful and substantive second QUEBEC-NEW YORK TRANSPORTATION RENDEZVOUS & B2B event in March. In addition to dozens of valuable B2B meetings on-site and informative presentations, the North Country Chamber signed updated Partnership Agreements with both Aero Montreal and Propulsion Quebec.
- In a follow-up to a Plattsburgh visit in 2021 by State Senator Tim Kennedy, Chair of the Senate Transportation Committee, NAmTrans organized a group visit in 2022 to western New York to join the Senator in visits to several transportation related companies.
- In September, NAmTrans joined with New York State in co-organizing and sponsoring a Fuze Hub conference on transportation equipment manufacturing in Binghamton, extending its reach, and establishing a number of valuable new connections.
- We directly facilitated the connection of Alstom to the state's multi-state Hydrogen Hub initiative.
- Our Adirondack Coast Visitors Bureau implemented its extensive and flexible tourism marketing and development plan in 2022, enjoying considerable success in continuing to draw visitation from the Capital Region and downstate as well as moving quickly in the spring as the border returned to substantial normalcy to invite and welcome a strong resurgence of Canadian visitation.
- We secured and successfully hosted six major bass fishing tournaments on Lake Champlain as well as the return of the East Coast WaterCross Championships.
- We have assisted in a number of ways with plans for the 2023 World University Games, including facilitating communications with U.S. Customs & Border Protection and supporting a major sponsorship commitment by Hydro Quebec.
- We achieved re-accreditation of the North Country Chamber of Commerce by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce at the highest level of 5 Stars, one of fewer than 1% of Chambers nationally.
- We successfully sustained and grew membership in 2022.
- We conducted a number of highly successful Chamber events including our 110th Anniversary Annual Dinner. St. Patrick's, our Annual Golf Tournament, Women In Business, Taste of the North Country, and our monthly Business After Hours networking events.
- Our Health Insurance services remained a strong support system for small businesses and individuals in the region.
- We completed a comprehensive re-design and updating of the Chamber's website, enhancing its content and ease of use.
- Communications, including our popular "Today's Dose" e-newsletter and our active presence on social media, have continued to strengthen communications and interactions with our members and other audiences.
- Finances remained very strong, with a diversity of revenue streams.
- We maintained a strong and active collaboration with our twelve Partner Chambers, fulfilling our constant commitment to be and act regional.