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The sign bearing LaBaff's name is made from aluminum smelted at Alcoa in Massena. Photo: David Sommerstein.
The sign bearing LaBaff's name is made from aluminum smelted at Alcoa in Massena. Photo: David Sommerstein.

St. Lawrence county names building for union leader

St. Lawrence County officially named its main job creation building yesterday after a man who's spent a lifetime fighting for jobs. Assemblywoman Addie Russell praised Ernie LaBaff as a man who exemplified "dignity in work".

LaBaff worked at Alcoa in Massena for some 50 years. He's now vice-chairman of the county Industrial Development Agency, whose building now bears his name.  Go to full article
Dr. Mara Smith thinks her "Athlete Minder" is a perfect new start-up for Lake Placid.  But she needs investors to move forward.  Photo:  Brian Mann
Dr. Mara Smith thinks her "Athlete Minder" is a perfect new start-up for Lake Placid. But she needs investors to move forward. Photo: Brian Mann

Can we end the North Country's investment drought?

Today in Washington DC, the Obama administration is hosting a conference designed to convince more investors to back entrepreneurs, start-ups and infrastructure projects in rural America.

As part of that effort, the White House is unveiling a new $10 billion private investment fund aimed at financing more projects in small towns.

That effort follows years of concern from economists and rural policy experts, who say a kind of capital drought is stifling growth in rural areas.

The fear is that even many good ideas aren't getting funded in small town regions like the North Country, because most of the investment dollars are flowing to cities and suburbs.  Go to full article
NYCO's Mark Buckley points to the border between mine-owned lands and the state forest preserve.  Photo: Brian Mann
NYCO's Mark Buckley points to the border between mine-owned lands and the state forest preserve. Photo: Brian Mann

Green groups plan to sue over NYCO Adirondack mining

A coalition of green groups, including two based in the Adirondacks, say they will file legal action to block "exploratory drilling" in the forest preserve.

The groups planned to hold a press conference Friday afternoon in Albany to detail their concerns.  Go to full article
Gore Mountain is an anchor for Warren County's winter economy. Photo: Gore Mountain website
Gore Mountain is an anchor for Warren County's winter economy. Photo: Gore Mountain website

Comptroller: Olympic authority needs "fiscal balance"

A new report issued this week by New York's state Comptroller office is aiming fire at the business and accounting practices of the Olympic Regional Development Authority.

That's the state-owned enterprise that operates sports and tourism venues in the Adirondacks and Catskills.

The audit found that ORDA is losing money and is often forced to borrow cash to pay for basic operations.  Go to full article
A crowd gathered in the Lewis town fire hall on Wednesday to hear details of NYCO's proposed expansion at two mines that would mean additional truck traffic and hours of operation.  Photo:  Brian Mann
A crowd gathered in the Lewis town fire hall on Wednesday to hear details of NYCO's proposed expansion at two mines that would mean additional truck traffic and hours of operation. Photo: Brian Mann

NYCO mining expansion in Adirondacks raises new questions

Last November NYCO Minerals won a statewide ballot initiative that is expected to allow them to explore for a mineral called Wollastonite on 200 acres of the Adirondack forest preserve in the Jay Mountain Wilderness.

That controversial project, involving a chunk of land known as "Lot 8" is still on-hold, awaiting permits from New York state.

But the company is also moving forward with plans to expand two existing Wollasonite mines in the Essex County town of Lewis. Company officials say the project is needed to maintain NYCO's operations.

Green groups have raised questions about the plan's environmental impacts.

But this time, local residents and some local government officials say they too have questions about the impact on public safety and on quality of life  Go to full article
Elected officials and Alcoa leaders broke ground at the Massena East plant last July, but Alcoa still hasn't committed to completing the construction project. The plant has since closed, at least temporarily. Photo: Julie Grant
Elected officials and Alcoa leaders broke ground at the Massena East plant last July, but Alcoa still hasn't committed to completing the construction project. The plant has since closed, at least temporarily. Photo: Julie Grant

Is Alcoa committed to its future in Massena?

One of the North Country's largest private sector employers, Alcoa, is stepping back on its commitment to Massena. But the aluminum giant still got a $30 million discount from the state on its electricity bill. That's the crux of a story WWNY-TV broke earlier this week.

Since Alcoa shuttered its East plant in Massena in January, state officials have been scrambling to rework a deal that would have guaranteed 900 jobs in exchange for cheap electricity from the hydropower dam New York owns on the St. Lawrence River. The company also said it would invest $600 million to modernize the East plant with a new high-tech smelter. But Alcoa's board has yet to sign off on that plan.  Go to full article

Lake George's tourism transformation

The summer tourism season is slowly coming awake across the North Country. One of the big hotspots will be Lake George, which is in the middle of a building boom. Community leaders hope to see a kind of growth that will extend the village's visitor economy into the fall and winter months.  Go to full article
Paul Smiths College President John Mills in his office on Tuesday, shortly after announcing major job cuts at the school. Photo:  Brian Mann
Paul Smiths College President John Mills in his office on Tuesday, shortly after announcing major job cuts at the school. Photo: Brian Mann

Paul Smiths College community takes big hit

As NCPR reported yesterday, Paul Smiths College has announced deep, across the board budget cuts that will slash 12 percent of the school's jobs.

The board of trustees declared a "state of financial exigency," which will allow the school to cancel or renegotiate the contracts of as many as 23 full- and part-time employees. The move was triggered by a sharp decline in students enrolling at the small college north of Saranac Lake.

For the close-knit, remote campus, the news was a body blow, affecting employees and community members who have worked at the school for years.  Go to full article
Paul Smiths College President John Mills in his office on Tuesday, shortly after announcing major job cuts at the school.  Photo:  Brian Mann
Paul Smiths College President John Mills in his office on Tuesday, shortly after announcing major job cuts at the school. Photo: Brian Mann

Updated: Paul Smiths College cuts 12% of staff, faculty

Facing declining enrollments and rising costs, Paul Smiths College in the Adirondacks today announced that roughly 12 percent of faculty and staff will be let go. College President John Mills (click "Listen" to hear Brian Mann's interview with Mills) says the "restructuring" plan involves the loss of 23 full- and part-time positions. "I am deeply saddened that we must let go of several people as we restructure our operations," Mills said on Tuesday.

In all, 11 staff and faculty will be laid off, while 12 more jobs will be cut from open positions or people who "have left the college voluntarily."  Go to full article
Gov. Andrew Cuomo paddling on Boreas Pond in North Hudson, in Essex County. NCPR file photo: Brian Mann
Gov. Andrew Cuomo paddling on Boreas Pond in North Hudson, in Essex County. NCPR file photo: Brian Mann

Will the Finch land deal really boost the Adk economy?

Two years ago, when Gov. Andrew Cuomo revived the massive Finch, Pruyn land deal, first engineered by the Adirondack Nature Conservancy in 2007, he shifted the terms of a long-running debate over big land conservation projects in the park.

Funding for open space conservation had been under attack in Albany for years, including a moratorium on new spending. Even many Democrats were questioning the value to taxpayers of protecting more "forever wild" land in the park.

The governor turned that debate on its head, arguing that vast tracts of new public lands would be a boon to the state's tourism economy, rather than a costly burden, and would give struggling Adirondack towns a long-needed boost.  Go to full article

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