May 7, 2008: Economic summit important to region

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To The Editor:
In many circles, talk revolves around what people can do to stimulate the local economy. Usually people think of large-scale manufacturing and other large corporate businesses as the economic drivers needed to jumpstart and drive the economy. Although these large industries are no doubt important, particularly on a national and global scale, I believe that the average person has more direct influence over the start-up and success of small-scale, family-owned and operated businesses.
In the rural Catskill Region, we have an abundance of business opportunities based on the area’s rich cultural heritage and in the agriculture and forestry industries. I would argue that these local industries are the most logical and most sustainable means of creating and keeping local jobs as well as in conserving the area’s beautiful and bountiful natural resources.
On behalf of the Watershed Agricultural Council, I invite you to attend the 2008 Economic Summit at SUNY Cobleskill on May 9. Federal legislators, regional business owners and local residents, people like you and I, will meet to discuss the economic future of our region. The seminar, entitled “Greener Pastures for Upstate New York,” is a public forum designed to generate the dialogue needed to bring prosperity back to our townships and hamlets. Congresswoman Kirsten Gillibrand and Congressman Michael McNulty will chair the event and provide “food for thought” as we collectively discover ways of bringing business back home.
New York State was once an epicenter of farming and forestry and I believe we could, and should return the local economy to that status. Small scale farming, such as we have in upstate New York, can address many people’s concerns and demand for safe, healthy, fresh (and delicious) food that is less dependent on long-distance travel, the cost of which is becoming prohibitively expensive and wasteful.
The utilization of local forest resources, managed in a suitable manner, naturally supports the demand for alternative energy, building materials and added-value wood products. We need look no further than our own backyards to find the solution to our economic problems. Collectively, agriculture and forestry are a big part of the answer.
For more information, visit http://www.publicforuminstitute.org/activities/2008/ny.

Tom O’Brien,
Executive Director
Watershed Agricultural Council, Walton