2003 Inaugural Symposium Presentations

Symposium Presentations:

Michael Shuman: "How St. Lawrence County Can Prosper by Going Local"
Keynote Address, inaugural symposium, May 2003

St. Lawrence County (SLC), located in the heart of the North Country in New York State, has an economy with sharp contrasts. It has enormous natural assets, including minerals, forests, and water, all of which it has harnessed for successful mining, lumber, and electricity-intensive industries. It has relatively large government and university sectors that usually inoculate a region against the ups and downs of the business cycle. It has some remarkably strong social indicators of well being, including a low crime rate and strong family structures.

Yet despite these strengths, SLC is economically falling farther and farther behind both New York State and the United States. It has chronically high levels of unemployment and poverty. Per capita earnings, while rising in nominal terms, have actually stagnated for more than a decade in real dollars and are losing ground against gains being made by fellow New Yorkers and fellow Americans. Among the results of these realities is that top-flight universities in the area, including Clarkson University, St. Lawrence University, and SUNY Potsdam, often see their best students skip town upon graduation. Over the past decade, the county has been gradually losing population. If SLC wishes to improve its economic prospects, it must change direction...

...A new commitment to LOIS (Locally owned, import-substituting) by SLC requires an entirely new, more participatory approach to economic planning. Three types of analysis are particularly important:

- Indicators – What does the County really mean by economic development? Which of the standard measures (e.g., per capita income) are most important? Are there other benchmarks of progress that the County should be measuring like species protection, literacy, or political participation?
- Assets – What kinds of local businesses are already in place? What are the available inputs of land, labor, capital, and technology that can support the expansion of local business? What other kinds of assets– social, political, environmental, even spiritual – does the County have that could be used to support local business?
- Leakages – What exactly are the goods and services that local businesses and consumers are buying now from the outside that could be produced inside the County? How big are these leaks, and how easily could they be plugged? ...

Background Reports:

James Shuman: "Public Education in Northern New York: An Environmental Scan of Current Issues and the Role of Higher Education"
January 2002

Northern New York’s schools present a dichotomy. Located in a part of the state that is challenged economically, environmentally, and climatically, they struggle to provide an education for the region’s inhabitants that meets both the state’s standards for achievement as well as the societal needs of the local communities. While northern New York lacks many of the financial and human resources to make it a flourishing part of the state, it features its own distinctive natural resources, attractiveness, and charm...

Not surprisingly, the county’s schools do not fare particularly well on standardized assessments mandated annually by the Regents. Essentially all of the districts have students on both sides of the state’s median scores for reading and mathematics at the 4th grade and 8th grade levels, and they have all identified specific needs for improved instruction in reading and mathematics in the lower and middle grades. At the commencement level, approximately 55% of all students graduate with a Regents diploma, having passed the Regents examinations for academic subjects (English, social studies, mathematics, science(s), and foreign language), while the percentage of students statewide is only 43%. Almost all of the remaining students complete the graduation requirements for vocational education and/or general education, again at a higher percentage than the state average. Thus, the dichotomy continues to be seen – the region’s schools are hard-pressed economically and they are considered to be high-need in terms of resource capacity, yet they do above average work in preparing students to meet the state’s standards...