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A Year of Hard Choices

In a year of hard choices, Melinda Little says she's focusing on community activism.
In a year of hard choices, Melinda Little says she's focusing on community activism.

A Year of Hard Choices: In a "scary time," a focus on community

This week we're launching our Year of Hard Choices project, talking about the national recession and its impact on our lives here in the North Country. One troubling trend that inspired the series has been the rapid pace of lay-offs in the North Country. Many of the region's biggest employers have slashed jobs or closed their doors for good. In some counties, unemployment already tops 10 percent, well above the national average. Last October, we profiled Melinda Little in Saranac Lake, who had been laid off from the American Management Association. Little has agreed to spend the next year with North Country Public Radio, talking and blogging about her experience and her choices. She sat down this week to talk with Brian Mann.  Go to full article
Sharlene and Randy Carpenter and their granddaughter, Riley.

A Year of Hard Choices: Checking in with the Carpenters

Yesterday in the first installment of our Year of Hard Choices series, we heard economics professor Greg Gardner say manufacturing jobs have been the early victims of the recession in the North Country. General Motors in Massena and Covidien in Watertown are shutting down entirely. Alcoa and New York Air Brake have laid off workers. Corning halved its workforce in 2008. That means hundreds of people around the North Country can no longer rely on a steady wage. They'll spend less at stores, theaters, restaurants, and car dealerships. Their lean times trickle down to local businesses, which may then suffer layoffs of their own. Sharlene Carpenter got her pink slip from Corning in late December, just a few months after her husband, Randy, lost his job at a local pallet mill. For today's installment in our Year of Hard Choices series, we check back with Sharlene and Randy Carpenter at their home in Heuvelton. As David Sommerstein reports, their time off of work hasn't been so bad, but tough choices loom ahead.  Go to full article
Greg Gardner

A Year of Hard Choices: challenges and opportunities

Our series starts with a conversation about the state of the region--economically speaking. Greg Gardner has been a student of the North Country economy since coming to the region 15 years ago. He teaches management and business strategy at SUNY Potsdam. He and his wife live outside Watertown. Gardner says the NC economy is fairly simple--service-oriented and shaped by a relatively small population, spread over a large area. It's highly seasonal--tourism, farming. Typically, employment and spending go down in the winter, up in the summer. Lots of stable civic jobs, from education to prisons, buffer the region somewhat from highs and lows elsewhere.

Like the rest of the nation, the North Country just had about 10 years of steady economic growth. But that's quickly eroded over the last six months. Manufacturing and farming, economic engines that ship exports out and bring fresh cash in, have been hit hard. Demand for their products has dropped, and financing for their operations has dried up.

Meanwhile, state spending tapered off dramatically in some areas. Using employment as a gauge, Gardner said the NC economy right now looks about the way it did in the early '90s, with unemployment ranging from 9 to 11%, expecting that to moderate in the summer. Now, Gardner says, the downturn is touching more and more people.  Go to full article

Lowville, pt.2: inside the safety net

This week, we're viewing the recession through the lens of one North Country community: the village of Lowville in Lewis County. Yesterday we heard from Main Street...  Go to full article
Lowville's "gift shop district"

The economy in Lowville, pt.1: gift shops make do

This week, we take a snapshot of one North Country community and how it's being affected by the recession. Lowville is the seat of Lewis County. It's a cute village tucked...  Go to full article

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