Nora Flaherty had a chance to talk with DeYoung, and asked him what the council was hoping to learn with the survey.
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Seasonal property owners in Jefferson County come from all over New York state as well as from outside of the state. Tourism council executive director Gary DeYoung says some even live in other communities within the county, like Watertown, but keep a second home to be closer to recreation opportunities.
Not surprisingly, about 80% of seasonal residents in Jefferson County own places near the water. But DeYoung says others do the opposite, keeping a camp on the Tug Hill plateau for winter activities.
Surveyors asked seasonal residents how they already use the region, what kind of recreation they do, where they shop and if they visit museums. They also collected basic demographic information and asked how often residents use their place. DeYoung says that they collected “a lot of basic information that we can cross-reference and get a sense of what’s going on.”
“We found out that, not surprisingly, they rated our area very high for recreational amenities, great satisfaction with that,” said DeYoung. When respondents were asked what they do often, 75% said that they do outdoor recreation on the water. DeYoung said that while some of the answers were predictable, others will be helpful in the future.
“For instance, attending community theatre, musical performances, something that’s maybe dear to the heart of public radio, 24% said they wanted to do that more often. So we know we need to get the message out to the seasonal residents about the kind of cultural activities that are available here because quite a few of them are interested in doing it, but aren’t doing it much right now,” said DeYoung.
According to DeYoung, they also discovered some interesting demographic information about the area’s residents. He said, “Seasonal residents turn out to be, in some ways, more middle class than you might think of when you take a millionaire’s road tour on the St. Lawrence in that the average income was in the mid-$130,000 range. So that’s, although certainly well above the average North Country income, that’s not the one-percenters.”
They also discovered that two-thirds of the seasonal residents also have college degrees, and 37% have graduate degrees. “So this is a very well-educated, middle class group of people,” DeYoung concluded. In comparison, he says that only about 20% of year-round residents in Jefferson County have college degrees. The median household income of year-round residents is about $43,000.
DeYoung says that the information collected ranges from interest in the arts to grocery story preferences. He said, “We’re going to look at that and see how we can be smarter about promoting businesses, activities and cultural organizations in our county to those people. And then on the other side, we asked about, ‘Are you interested in investing in the county?’ Perhaps having a job here or starting a business. A big chunk of these people, I think close to 20%, are business owners already, and close to 5% said they would consider opening or buying a business in Jefferson County. So we know that with 7,000 seasonal homes in Jefferson County, 5% creates a lot of great business leads.”