Caroline Murray/Recorder staff Acting Commissioner of Agriculture & Markets Richard Ball, left, Center for Agricultural Development's Rebecca Morgan, center, and Piggy Pat's Barbecue owner Pat McCann participated in a farm-to-table workshop Wednesday during the Mohawk Valley Regional Economic Development Summit at Canajoharie's Arkell Museum.
By CAROLINE MURRAY
CANAJOHARIE -- At the Mohawk Valley Regional Economic Development Summit Wednesday, Bob Albrecht of Keep Mohawk Valley Beautiful referenced a Cornell University study which predicted one third of the valley's population and housing market would decline in 30 years if the region continues on its economic path.
"Today, proves otherwise," Albrecht said to a room full of regional guests.
The summit was held at Canajoharie's Arkell Museum and brought business leaders, government officials and academics together to share success stories of the state's Regional Economic Development Council initiative and exchange ideas for future endeavors.
During the course of three years, the council has received more than $200 million in grants through the state's Consolidated Fund Application process to invest in community development projects.
On the cusp of the application process, which begins today, guests were invited to participate in workshops and network with experts and stake holders of local businesses, government and academia.
"The biggest thing that comes through today is the need for collaboration and working on a regional basis with all these stake holders," Montgomery County Executive Matthew Ossenfort said.
"Working with our regional partners we are hoping to continue moving forward, and holding it at the museum, we hope to give everyone a little taste of Montgomery County," he said.
Workshops were held on topics such as agricultural growth, downtown development, and college-community partnerships.
In a workshop that focused on urban redevelopment, architects and developers spoke about their experience revitalizing downtown areas.
Corning's Johnson-Schmidt & Associates architect David Anderson said investors are generally apprehensive about developing high-end or market-rate housing in depressed downtown areas, but these areas have trouble flourishing unless housing is addressed first.
"It's not the only way, but it's a good way," Anderson said.
In his experience in developing downtown areas, he said most new housing projects are rented out before completion.
Fulton Montgomery County Regional Chamber of Commerce President Mark Kilmer sat in on the workshop. He said the summit was important for community members who may be in the dark about some of these topics and the CFA process.
"I am very interested in downtown development because Amsterdam, Gloversville and Johnstown, along with Canajoharie and Fort Plain and all the other small towns, need downtown reinvention," Kilmer said.
Fulton County Board of Supervisors Chairman Richard Argotsinger attended a workshop focusing on the farm-to-table revolution. The workshop was facilitated by Acting Commissioner of Agriculture & Markets Richard Ball.
"Upstate New York is probably the best-kept secret in New York," Ball said.
He said there is an opportunity to connect upstate with downstate through food distribution. He said more restaurant owners in New York City are demanding better quality produce and meat; they also want to know where their food comes from.
Argotsinger said this area needs a better way to advertise and distribute locally grown and harvested products.
"I am a farmer," he said. " I have been my whole life -- there is a definite need for better distribution of products locally and essentially there is not a lot of that today."
Amsterdam Mayor Ann Thane also attended the farm-to-table workshop.
She said residents living below the poverty line on the East End of Amsterdam do not regularly have access to fresh produce.
Thane said she would like to see the city mimic projects such the Corbin Hill Food Project in Harlem, which works with farmers from upstate New York to deliver fresh fruits and vegetables to underprivileged people in that area as well as the Bronx.
"It would be great to get a local Corbin-type project in Amsterdam," Thane said.
Thane is on Mohawk Valley's council and helped organize Thursday's event. She said many success stories happened in the region because of the economic regional council initiative and hopes the fourth year of the application process is just as successful.
"We want people to focus on the success stories that have happened in the past three rounds and inspire people to think about new priority projects that may be able to be funded in our next round," Thane said. "Hopefully we will see an increase in cooperation between public and private entities and academia."