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May 17, 2014

Agriculture, housing boosts sought locally in 1919

Restoring prosperity to the Oneonta area and Otsego County has certainly been in the local news in recent years. Formation of organizations such as the Greater Oneonta Economic Development Council may come to mind, as well as the much publicized economic and “sustainability” summits, all to promote job growth and new business ventures.

This isn’t the first time these kinds of organizations have formed and activities taken place. Ninety-five years ago this month a bold headline was seen on the local news page of The Oneonta Star of Friday, May 16, 1919, that read, “Plan To Boom Otsego County.”

The story began, “There was sounded to the residents of Otsego county at the luncheon at The Oneonta yesterday, which was attended by nearly 400 representative business men and farmers of this county, a clarion call to the inhabitants of the section for organized effort to restore the agricultural industry to its former prosperity, the alternative being the removal of our factories to the west and south nearby to the source of their food supplies. New England evidently has faced the situation of its abandoned farm lands and the resultant danger to its other industries and is taking similar steps to that proposed for Otsego county to remedy the trouble before it is too late.”

“The Oneonta” referred to was the downtown hotel in the area of today’s 189 Main St. There were several speakers at the luncheon, including one from the State College of Agriculture, who appealed for education training of farmers to reverse the decline of farming.

This meeting led to the formation of the Otsego County Improvement Association, with Frank H. Smith of Springfield named president, and Floyd S. Barlow of Cooperstown as manager, both having been prominent in local Farm Bureau work. The plan was to raise $25,000 yearly to finance the Association, and substantial contributions were received during the afternoon.

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