One model is the Finger Lakes region, once desolate and remote, now crowded with boutique farms, wineries, food tourism and related enterprises.
A more general model is found in the specialized regional products for which France and other European countries are famous. Why not an Otsego cheese or mead or sausage, or a local line of furniture or clothing? Why not grow hops — once a specialty of this area — to supply local breweries, who currently import hops at considerable expense?
And, not least, let’s stop exporting energy dollars and look to local renewable, clean sources to power local businesses and residences, including, where viable and efficient, solar, hydro, wind, and perhaps biofuels. There’s real potential for jobs and energy independence.
Of course, if the exploitation of one resource destroys others, we’re worse off than before. This is why, as our communities have recognized, natural gas doesn’t count as a resource for us. Its harmful environmental, economic, and social side-effects — ignored by the industry and its supporters — cancel out any short-term profits fracking might bring.
Our local advocates for jobs at any cost — like the Citizen Voices group, which refuses to rule out fracking — fail to distinguish between enterprises that will promote the general welfare and those that will harm it.
Keep in mind also that recent successful enterprises in our area — from the Glimmerglass Opera to Brewery Ommegang to Chobani to the Cooperstown Dreams Park — were not rustled up by our local economic planners.
They were unpredictable, spontaneous initiatives by individuals with vision who knew how to execute. And they all built on local resources they recognized and valued.
Finally, the local industries of the future have to be sustainable. They have to utilize renewable local resources. They have to respect the carrying capacity of our area.