Potsdam, NY, Mar 23, 2009 — 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.