Thursday, August 5, 2021

Business ownership: the key to retaining a young population?

By Dana Bamford, ANCA 2021 Summer Fellow

Having grown up in suburban Boston, it was a real change moving to northern New York.

Not because of the swarming Yankees and Mets fans and not even because of the dreaded winters —  those I’ve had my fair share of in Boston. The biggest change for me was the shift to a more rural lifestyle.

Before moving up to the Adirondacks and working with ANCA this summer, I attended Colgate University, which is located in a pretty isolated location. At Colgate, I got used to driving an hour to the closest Target, or thirty minutes to the best ice cream spot. Thirty minutes to the nearest gas station, however, came as quite the shock despite my rural-life grace period at school.

With everything so spread out, I found myself wondering if I would be able to live here long term. It’s a beautiful area with so much to offer, but how would I make friends? I haven’t spotted many other young residents in the area.

Attracting people to the area, from my perspective, does not seem to be the heart of the issue. The beauty and appeal of the region are already apparent. When I walk around Saranac Lake, especially on summer weekends, I pass loads of younger tourists. Key word: tourists. Attracting — and then retaining — a younger population in the Adirondacks is the bigger issue.

Why is the lack of young people in the North Country an issue?

I’m not suggesting that the essence of life in the Adirondacks needs to change in order to accommodate younger folks. This slower paced, more serene lifestyle is well-appreciated and fundamental. It’s not for everyone, but a lifestyle that I could absolutely get used to and a lifestyle that I know other young people would enjoy. Nonetheless, the scarcity of young residents remains an issue.

Tori of Main Street Exchange in Saranac Lake

The reality of aging businesses had never truly hit me until I was walking around Lake Placid one day, jumping from store to store. Having just edited the business website listings for ANCA’s Center for Businesses in Transition (CBIT), I was struck by how many storefronts I recognized from the site. I was amazed by how many businesses in the area are currently searching for a new owner.

Without a strong new generation of entrepreneurs, these businesses are at risk, along with the community as a whole. In order to sustain North Country communities in the years to come, there is a strong need for younger residents to carry on the legacies of aging businesses and promote economic prosperity.

Seeing young entrepreneurs like Victoria Vasquez (pictured above) at Main Street Exchange in Saranac Lake or the many worker-owners at Ward Lumber (like Alex Pond, pictured) below in Malone and Jay is inspiring and encouraging. Their progress and bravery are proof that younger people can indeed handle the tasks of small business management.

While the steps to get to business ownership may have been daunting, young owners working with ANCA’s CBIT project have paved the way for more to come. Not only have CBIT partners helped transition retiring businesses over to new successors, they have also helped create more sustainable job options for young people in the area, allowing them to reside more permanently in the North Country.

While there is definitely more work to be done on the retention of a younger population, economic development programs like CBIT are providing innovative opportunities for jobs that go beyond minimum-wage tourism positions.

For young people who are willing to take the leap, business ownership can be a rewarding career and lifestyle choice — and one that will benefit North Country communities for years to come.

alex at ward lumber

Dana Bamford joined the ANCA team in June as a 2021 Summer Fellow. A recent graduate from Colgate University, Dana holds a bachelor’s degree in Peace and Conflict Studies and a Sociology minor. She has been helping to develop a survey to assess successes and challenges of the Center for Businesses in Transition program and supporting CBIT’s social media efforts.

Photos: 1) Dana and a friend enjoying an outdoor adventure in the Adirondack Mountains. 2) Victoria Vasquez is the new owner of Main Street Exchange in Saranac Lake. 3) Alex Pond cuts a board at a “board cutting ceremony” in June 2021 to commemorate the company’s transition to a worker-owned cooperative. 

 

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The Adirondack Almanack publishes occasional guest essays from Adirondack residents, visitors, and those with an interest in the Adirondack Park.

Submissions should be directed to Almanack editor Melissa Hart at [email protected]


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14 Responses

  1. Zephyr says:

    Yes, it’s jobs, jobs, jobs that will keep younger people in the North Country and bring in newcomers who are below retirement age. However, not many younger people have the wherewithal to purchase an existing business. But, working from home, self-employment, and other one-person jobs are certainly options. Broadband access is the key to many of these positions. I personally know some 20-somethings who work remotely for major tech companies and earn plenty to live wherever they want to, but without reliable and fast broadband it won’t be the Adirondacks.

  2. Vanessa Banti Vanessa B says:

    Thank you for writing this article, and I thoroughly agree! And I think govt and the private sector should do more to incentivize this. Millennials and gen z have plenty of drive to start businesses. However, on average we’re a LOT less likely to have the $$. Or we are already intimidated by our student debt and therefore worry about taking on more debt for a business risk. I can dig up the citation for the following, but I just read that millennials and gen z own less than 5% of the nation’s collective wealth, whereas boomers owned around 21% when they were our age. I might get some commentary for bringing this up, but it’s a salient issue for us to contribute to the economy.

    I also agree with Zephyr that better internet will continue to be key to a better economic outlook. Many businesses geared towards a younger population need the internet too – not just us techies. And further, businesses need a clientele. Anyone moving to the area that will want bars, restaurants, coffee houses (hec yeah), breweries, eclectic shops, and also all of the service sector businesses that support all that – then we’re talking a more modern economic outlook. And the snazzier all of the amenities above, the better for the tourist industry too.

    The pool of people even alive anymore that making a living (in this country) off older ADK industries like manufacturing or the parts of government that employ people in the region (prison industry) are either zero or shrinking (respectively). I realize I sound like a peppy trope of a tech sector young person being like, “we have to disrupt x industry or x economic model!” – but there are a lot of regions of the country that have done well doing just that.

    • Zephyr says:

      Agree, and one of the problems is the older demographic, like mine, that dominates local and state government with its old thinking. There’s lots of inertia to overcome the forces trying to keep things the way they have always been instead of moving forward. For example, our healthcare system is hugely expensive for a self-employed person to the point many of us have to choose jobs based on the cost of healthcare. When I first started working after college many ordinary jobs included full medical and dental coverage at no cost to the employee, and even if you had to pay a doctor out of pocket it was affordable. Today, young people have to not only deal with their college loans (I’m nearing retirement and still paying loans for my children), but they also have onerous costs for housing, healthcare, transportation, etc. My father graduated from a top university in the ’50s and paid for everything with his summer job, then immediately got a job that paid enough to allow him to purchase a 12-room house. Try that today!

      • Vanessa Banti Vanessa B says:

        That’s kind and fortunate that you’re able to help pay your kids’ student loans! Many of my friends are looking at debt into their 40s and 50s. I’m a snot who has been in the black for most of her 30s…but on the other hand, I abandoned my librarian career dreams a long time ago. Many of my most dedicated and entrepreneurial friends have not been rewarded financially for following their dreams.

        We all get way too caught up in the “generational divide” woe-is-my-generation silliness. But at the end of the day, millennials & gen z can’t afford stuff. Stuff that in aggregate holds up the economy. I know super few homeowners under age 35 who didn’t get help with their down payment, for example.

        And the sad part is, that regions like the ADKs really are super appealing financially under the right conditions. But we’re a surprisingly conservative (financially) bunch, and it’s tough to justify financial risk because there’s so little safety net in case of failure. It may get even worse in the future. Lol, and don’t even get me started on healthcare…

  3. JB says:

    Much of what has been said in this article rings true to me: there is certainly no lack of brand awareness among young people for many of the Adirondack Park towns. And although many places within the “Adirondack region” accordingly do have the obvious presence of a younger demographic, that demographic is certainly more transient here than the older one.

    I do think that the idea behind CBIT is a good one. However, when we talk about larger systemic trends, we must be careful not to over-generalize and buy into selection bias. When it comes to demographics, while the trends may be similar throughout the region, the realities driving these trends in towns inside of as opposed to outside of the blue line are quite different. Outside of the magical blue line, recruitment of younger people is lackluster, and those who do come indeed tend to leave quickly. But we must remember that the former is true across all of rural America, and the latter is largely an inevitable function of the nature of younger populations in general–young people have this huge need to explore and embed themselves into many different types of communities, which often tend towards urban, before they settle down for the long haul (this is probably true now more than ever due to some of the societal changes wrought by the meritocracy that Zephyr has pointed out). On the contrary, inside of the blue line, recruitment of younger people is not so much the problem, while retention is the real problem, as stated above. We must realize that this makes the Park radically different than the rest of small-town America, and I would argue that the forces of exclusion in many Adirondack Park hamlets are more similar to those of elite enclaves in urban centers than those of other rural towns and must be addressed as such.

    Unlike, say, Malone, the brand awareness of a place like Lake Placid, with its iconic backdrop of forever wild mountain peaks majestically rising above a glassy lake, is basically equivalent to that of New York City, with its Empire State building, or San Francisco, with its Golden Gate Bridge. The exclusivity of these small hamlets is similarly urbanesque. Space is at a premium due to the zoning rules preventing urban sprawl that literally define the Adirondack Park (regulations that are not strong enough), and property values are inflated due to all of the usual forces of gentrification and exclusivity at play in prestigious city centers.

    Just as an anecdote has been given to turn the focus towards business owners who are aging out, I can give an anecdote to illustrate that over-recruitment is driving exclusivity. For example, I know of cases where people have come to some of the more gentrified Park towns and bought businesses for no other reason than that they had cash to burn and the marketing campaigns and hype behind the “magical allure” of the Adirondack Park had been effective in shaping these individuals’ choices. Once it became clear that no place could possibly live up to such magical expectations of lifestyle and economy, these people subsequently left and someone else replaced them. Simultaneously, driven by this type of speculative inquiline investment, life became less sustainable for long-time residents. The cycle continues to fuel itself as rent prices increase and a polylithic tourist-town model (high wages, egalitarianism, quality of life) slowly turns into a monolithic plantation-town model (low wages, social stratification, industrial nuisance). What looks from the outside like an old-fashioned “Boomer town” crisis is in fact a “boomtown” crisis.

    Admittedly, I may not be a proponent of population growth in the Park for environmental and “wilderness character” reasons–but those who are more economically-minded should realize that the excessive economy-building activities that we have seen in the Park coupled with unchecked exclusivity cannot be resolved by “doubling down”. I am not necessarily accusing the author of the article of this mentality, but there are many people and special interest groups who are pushing for more of the same as a panacea for the problems that the very policies which they espouse have created. We need to replace economy-building activities, marketing, investment, and subsidies with community-building, de-marketing, stricter zoning and rent reform. Towns and the State can reduce gentrification and oversaturation of private marketplaces and public lands by collaborating towards sustainability rather than growth, making the Park a more attractive place for long-term recruits and improving the visitor experience. Unfortunately, “can” does not equal “will”, and entrenched ideologies and special interest groups will most likely be the greatest impediment of all towards achieving positive change and resolution of these worsening problems.

    We cannot address the symptoms of the disease unless it is properly diagnosed. Similarly, we cannot create a positive reality unless we are realistic–if we let go of the ideal that everyone should be able to live in a protected Park, maybe it can become a bearable place to live for at least some kind of ordinary population. And I will readily acknowledge that some see a nail and get out a hammer, while I get out my crowbar. But the end goal should be to build a durable house, not a mansion that will collapse under its own weight, or collapse the bedrock beneath it.

    • Vanessa Banti Vanessa B says:

      I agree with a lot of this! I hope you do not mind a genuine question: how long does one have to stay to live in a place before being the type of productive long term resident that you’re defining here?

      Because imo, a homeowner of 5 years or a homeowner of 25 years accomplish many of the same things: they pay taxes, they use services, they attend local meetings, etc etc. As long as they don’t live remotely and rent their property out, I think the only thing that changes if someone leaves is that real estate is artificially inflated. (I agree strongly that in terms of real estate economics, places like LP resemble a city far greater than places like Malone do.)

      In my experience, most young people move around out of necessity rather than choice. You tend to advance in a career by moving companies these days, not staying put. The possible revolution in work-from-home may change all of this, and may yet impact the ADKs heavily. But until then, it is hard to have an option to live someplace you want to.

      I guess my thing is that it’s not a pure matter of age or length of stay, but what you do in and contribute to a community while you’re there.

      • JB says:

        Good to hear your thoughts, Vanessa!

        I think that the focus in this article and my subsequent response on “long-term residents” is not so much about condemning the proletariat whose realities are shaped by economic forces outside of their own control, but rather, in my case, it is about about addressing the societal problems wrought in large and small cities by rife, unchecked speculative investment and economy-building activities on the part of the bourgeoisie and special interest groups (including balkanized government actors) who, as you point out, largely do not care to live within and productively contribute to the community–I believe that people do not often soil their own nests. The anecdote that I gave of the person who, inspired by the marketing mythos, bought a business and subsequently abandoned ship–while illustrating a valuable point about over-recruitment leading to transient speculative investment–is a true story about someone whom I personally know of that had bought and sold a business in Lake Placid, but it suffices to say that this person was certainly not living a working-class life at the time.

        Would one person renting out their house on a very short-term basis constitute my detrimental “economy-building activities”, versus “community-building activities”? Probably not (unless maybe you asked their immediate neighbors for their opinion). I am more talking about systemic problems–“look to your left. look to your right” type of things–that are created when trends, often facilitated by larger policies (or the lack thereof) reach a tipping point, as I believe that they have in places like Placid. I also have a different take on things when it comes to remote-work: People are leaving cities for affordable exurbs that, although experiencing some degree of real-estate inflation or housing shortages, can sustainably absorb more people by virtue of being sprawling developments where growth is relatively uninhibited and often very economical, whereas this can never happen in a forever-wild Park hamlet, hence the rampant inflation and housing crisis. How can remote-workers be any substantial part of a solution to the Adirondack housing crisis, other than well-endowed remote workers filling the few vacancies as they come along? As an aside, I believe that the larger hamlets that I am talking about here have pretty widespread broadband coverage. It could be argued that Rural Use areas that lack broadband (although mine does not) may fill up with wealthy remote-workers if the government decides to redirect hundreds of millions of dollars towards running fiber up dirt roads (rather than in urban poor neighborhoods where millions of residents are really in need here), but this would more often than not need to be accompanied by either a willingness to foot the bill to improve the land in order to live in anything other than the available cottages or a willingness to wait for wealthy developers to build subdivisions–in either case, not very good for the environment, and the APA would eventually need to begin enforcing the one house per 40 acres Rural Use development limit (not to mention, real-estate prices would even further skyrocket and, if someone really had that kind of tenacity, lack of fiber or broadband would probably not be a deterrent, since ViaSat or ThomasNet are available, usually installed free of charge, everywhere in the United States outside of the Arctic Circle and are really not bad).

        Normally, I don’t like to even go there with the Marxist class-struggle jargon to begin with. My thinking is that much of the terminology and theory there has just enough symmetry with our present reality to convince us that we are suddenly becoming aware of some ultimate, grand scheme of things. The problem is that these concepts masquerade as incontrovertible truths by laying claim to a utilitarianism that will better society, while, in the contemporaneous world in which we actually live, the dichotomy necessitated by the “class struggle” all too often leads us astray, hurting the vulnerable rather than protecting them. For example, everyone cannot live in a protected Park, and this illusion, espoused by ideological locally-inclined groups (often bourgeoisie, no less)–if ideologues got their way–would likely severely exacerbate some of the kinds of economy-building, marketing and subsidization that I so firmly believe to be at the heart of most of the recent Adirondack “problems of affluence”. Note that I am not saying that working-class people cannot live in the Park, I am saying that the old ethos of growth to solve every problem only benefits the wealthy, at least in places where unrequited demand is unavoidable, like the Park.

        • Vanessa Banti Vanessa B says:

          Right, I get you here. I absolutely agree that the real estate craziness in LP is out of control and for lots of reasons, there need to be changes there. But you’re also correct that not a lot of people there seem motivated financially to disrupt the status quo. During our house hunting in the region, I can see a starter townhome for 275k in Saranac Lake, but drive 15 mins into LP and that same townhome is 700k to a million (!!), because it’s an “investment property.” No one who works for a living, or frankly intends to live full time in LP, is gonna buy that condo. It is *very similar in Cambridge where I live, and local govt has paid lip service to changing it for decades but too many (non local) people make bank. We have city manager governance here and the current city manager has been in power for 25 or some odd years. 75% of the people within the city limits rent. There will always be a huge pool of people that need to spend the money to perpetuate the system, as long as the universities remain prestigious.

          I digress here because I personally am more than ready to give smaller town politics a try, after having been burned badly trying to “change the world” in Cambridge. I don’t consider myself any sort of “ist,” except a leftist, but the out-of-control nature of real estate in some of these nominally “progressive” cities really does make you start to whine about capitalism and etc. I’m actually a little to the right economically of my Cambridge friends, but I get their frustration 100% because most of them are not like me (happier in the woods). They want their cultural scene and museums AND affordable housing. Never gonna happen in a modern city, not in 50 years. They can’t contribute here if they wanted to.

          So yeah, to your point, it would be crappy if the larger ADKs adopted these trends. It is indeed a protected park and I hopefully have proven elsewhere that I really support that idea. It’s great for many things, but will prove especially prescient if the climate crisis gets as bad as science is worried about.

          I guess I am approaching this with the “some of us gotta live there” type attitude. I know very few American millennials that would trade their local bar and a convenient Target for miles and miles of silent forest. But my husband and I are that type of crazy, :), and importantly, we want to contribute to keep the park the way it is…and perhaps also help people who are suspicious of us transplants due to the very same economic forces we’re talking about here.

          Hopefully not too long a reply! Thanks for reading 😀

          • JB says:

            Vanessa, you should know by now that there is no such thing as “too long of a reply” in my book!

            Even outside of any major hamlet, $275k sounds like about what you’d pay in the Park for a small cottage with insulation hanging down from the ceiling (true story). I would qualify my previous comments by admitting that the economic ideas that I am espousing (an unusual combination of Georgism, de-growth, libertarianism) are not going to be perfectly predicative. In fact, all economic theories are just ad hoc guessing games that will eventually lose their applicability–that is the real point here: none of us know what we are doing. Powerful people will pick and choose the theory that benefits them materially or ideologically, and then they will proceed to artificially create the very economic realities predicted therein so that they can point to their beliefs of convenience and say “look, I was right!”

            Setting aside the “some of us gotta live here” debate for a moment, if we try to imagine a future for the Adirondacks from the perspective of the working class given the organic evolution of the system, the outlook is grim: either most businesses are forced to close due to real-estate inflation caused by speculative investment and second-home ownership (“party town” or “millionaire-row”; workers priced out of the Park), businesses remain open and workers must move to the periphery (urban sprawl; bad for the environment, bad for workers), or mega-resorts monopolize the housing market for industrial development and worker housing (“plantation-town”; bad for workers, usually bad for the environment).

            On a macroeconomic scale, capitalism doesn’t actually fare too badly as I see it. The problem comes in when any grand economic theory is accepted as dogma to such a degree that few of the heterogeneous localities dare even attempt to adopt different microeconomic strategies. The Trotskyist argument (unfortunately, many people are unconsciously “ists”) is that the capitalist hegemony is so powerful that we need to create a new hegemony. Honestly, who knows? If we look at the only concrete alternatives that I can point to elsewhere that defy the aforementioned three possible demises of the charming Adirondack hamlet, success or failure is a matter of opinion. Of course, I am talking about government-facilitated workforce housing programs–on the one hand, you have the Soviet kommunalki (factory workforce housing in urban centers) and on the other hand you have the “Aspen model” (resort workforce housing in the Rocky Mountain resort town). Neither one ends up being a worker-centric economy, but rather they are from their very inception business-centered economies–Soviet cities are industrial eyesores, while Aspen is a millionaire’s party town.

            Some would argue that workers NEED to live in gentrified Adirondack hamlets–that eventually things will work out in the favor of the working class, since the working class can never be pushed completely out of a community without it collapsing. But I can point to many places in America, including in the Adirondacks, where there is not a public-facing business for 100 miles, yet people continue to live there and the roads are maintained, the EMS are just a phone call away, and the school buses still show up (there is no such thing in NY as Maine or Alaska’s unincorporated places). Surely, this would be a radical departure for places like Saranac Lake or Lake Placid, but workers can and are pushed out of such places–the Park could certainly get along alright as a residential moonscape devoid of most business. Thus, the only logical reason that I see for the worker advocacy in the Adirondack Park is that it is a social justice issue. No matter what, people will push hard for a working-class person to be a passenger on Bezos’ future private spaceship to the moon–even if that means they end up cleaning the toilets.

            Still, I think that it is worthwhile to try to preserve some semblance charm and small town character in the Park, as long as people ditch the pro-growth ideology–so that, A) they can actually succeed B) the environment, the “wilderness character”, remains at least as preserved as it is now. After all, this is what the APA Act was passed in order to achieve! But as things heat up, it is becoming increasingly apparent the necessity for a refreshed APA mandate (APA Act 2.0?) that prevents gentrification and better protects forever-wild by rewarding and permitting only those developments that contribute to the sustainability of these newly “crazified” hamlets–a hybrid planned-private economy. Surely, the Park economy already bears hallmarks of a planned economy, and it is the fervent rebellion against this reality, and the ensuing cobbled-together, blow-by-blow management system that we got, that is not faring well.

            The obvious problem with a refreshed mandate is that the basic mandates of APA 1.0 are not even being met right now. No ideas live forever, but some live longer than others. And you are spot on that many of these appointed bureaucrats perpetuate some very bad ideas, along with their own administrations–a phenomenon I call “government bloat”, where localities spiral into a vicious cycle of marketing, growing, needing more funding, and then marketing again (Le Guin’s “establishment for self-perpetuating bureaucracies”). This is happening across the Park, and I’m in anxious waiting for the day my town be next.

            Maybe The Rich Man is destined to get what he wants over Lazarus in this life. But I don’t believe that. Granted, solving these problems for any government agency, considering that The Rich Man sits on every board, would be like Lazarus coming back from the dead and landing a passenger airliner (a “spiritual”, eco-friendly one, mind you) on an Adirondack dirt road. Ultimately, the silver lining is that The Rich Man is neither a man nor rich but is merely an ideology and a boogeyman. Perhaps, the potential reality of a local managing agency functioning properly to protect the Park begs most of all another question: What would all of the “promote Adirondack business” nonprofits do? After all, there may very well be more nonprofits focusing on the Adirondacks than the rest of the State combined, and this potentially makes them one of the region’s biggest employers of all. And I often ask myself: does the presence of more nonprofits correlate with an increase in societal problems or a decrease?…Because, all joking aside, ideologies can be the more dangerous than bulldozers.

            • JB says:

              (Maybe take the word “all” out of the last few sentences. For some reason I overused it quite a bit. Maybe it was for emphasis, beats me!)

              • Zephyr says:

                I sincerely doubt you can point to a single place in the Adirondacks that has no public facing businesses within 100 miles of driving distance. Long before the point is reached that there are no services you reach a point where the schools close, the post office closes, there is no grocery store, and there is no police department, no fire department, etc. Sure, someone may still live there, but that person will be very dependent on a fuel-driven vehicle that may not be easily refueled when the gas station closes and there are no electric stations. Japan and Italy are already seeing numerous abandoned towns and villages, and in some cases people are being forced to move out because it costs the government too much to support the remaining residents. In any case, I would argue that the Adirondacks and every part of the world benefits from having a wide range of ages living there for practical, cultural, and quality of life reasons. Eventually, those younger people will age and become the next generation of old people too.

                • JB says:

                  Zephyr, I’m glad that you pointed that out. Point taken. I often throw around a lot of imprecise terms without proper qualification, and more so when I am in a jolly mood (however, note that I subscribe to the belief that “humor is the best medicine”, not “sarcasm is the most potent poison”).

                  While such places exist not far away within the continental United States, in the Adirondacks the absolute upper driving distance to a gas station, I would guess, becomes more like 50-70 miles, given that the Park is perhaps no more than 150 miles across. But this actually supports even better my reasoning that local business can disappear in the Adirondacks without real-estate prices depreciating and people leaving–just in terms of mere proximity of the Park to population centers alone. Of course, there are other realities at play within the Park that I would underpin my arguments with, and I do not believe that the Park could ever see the depreciation and desertion that have happened, for example, in Northeastern Maine due to privatization (commercial logging estates) or Japan due to larger cultural and economic realities (the Lost Decades).

                  There are hamlets in the central Adirondacks that were once bustling industrial centers that are now nothing more than sparse collections of houses with no locally-provided services. Yet, the varied residents of such places still continue to enjoy the same fundamental public services as everyone else in this state (emergency, road, school); it is only that they are provided by the county. (Consequently, these people also enjoy, or suffer from, depending on your outlook, real-estate appreciation that has often doubled that seen just outside of the blue line.) Obviously, privatized amenities like garbage collection are largely missing in such places (not as bad as you’d think), but there is virtually nowhere in New York State where basic public services are not provided to residents by either the city, town or county (with the exception of some large contiguous tracts of privately held land). Further, this reality was envisioned by the original authors of the legislation creating the Adirondack Park, and so, the towns and counties within the Adirondack Park (and the Catskill Park) are uniquely compensated by local taxes levied upon the state lands, so that they can continue to support themselves despite the decline of local economic activity.

                  Thus, once the young service workers disappear from the Park, basic services do not disappear and all people are not forced to leave. But I will concede that it is true that those who do remain behind live quite different lives–the proletariat and bourgeoisie are replaced by the “precariat” and “nobility”. The important difference that I see between these two binaries is not one of quality of culture or quality of life, but rather a difference of controllability–the latter hierarchy has long ago been replaced by the former in developed nations, and a reversion to a less sequacious and tractable economic reality that does not fit neatly into any of our established systems of control is frightening to our modern sensibilities. If you visit any of our “forgotten hamlets” and ask the people to categorize themselves, you will get no clearly delineated answers, and this is not something that you can qualify or quantify in terms of our “strong” or “weak”, “young” or “old”, “jobs” or “no jobs”, narrative. Rather, I think that we need to be looking differently at how we derive our concept of the value of a community. Meaningfulness is not a function one quality over and above another, or even one quality in relation to another, but a matter of acceptance of each person and thing for who and what they are, not in spite of, but in affirmation of their true nature. One person saying one thousand things is more meaningful, more honest, more integral, more enduring, than one thousand people saying one thing.

          • Pat Smith says:

            What a small world, my child attends college in Cambridge. The dorm is closest to Linnaean St. I will be there the first weekend in September. Lunch or maybe ice cream at Lizzys?

  4. Zephyr says:

    I think there will be a few young people able to start their own businesses, but a much more favorable climate exists for the Adirondacks to become a welcoming place to remote workers. In some cases, maybe companies might create call centers or small-scale tech companies in repurposed old buildings (prisons?), while many more techy people might move here while working for the Twitters of the world that allow remote work. I know that nearby places like Saratoga are already attracting these people, and many of them are headed to the Adirondacks for recreation every weekend. These well-off techies will in turn want and pay for many service jobs in restaurants, bars, craft shops, etc.

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