ROME — The north country was one of first New York regions to reopen in the wake of the near-total shutdown caused by the novel coronavirus pandemic, providing a glimmer of hope for communities across the state that are reeling from the economic fallout.
As we enter a new abnormal and businesses slowly begin to adapt to the restrictions and regulations in place due to the public health crisis, we have a significant opportunity to shape and develop the economic recovery of upstate New York.
In the north country, we can tap into new models for long-term growth and rethink the system on which we once depended.
We can start by employing a more circular approach to bolster local businesses and create new economic opportunities rather than simply drowning them in job-killing regulations.
As a member of the state Senate, I have been proud to fight in Albany for greater investment in the economic revitalization of our region.
As a longtime champion for economic development, I was pleased that the state invested nearly $68 million into promising businesses and projects in places such as Lowville, Massena, Castorland and Clifton as part of last year’s Regional Economic Development Council initiative.
However, the coronavirus upended many of the industries that call the north country home and reminded us how much work still needs to be done to build a strong and resilient economy that works for all residents.
Meanwhile, many of the policy proposals pushed by in the Legislature in recent years carry a hefty price tag and burdensome regulations that our local businesses cannot afford right now.
Transitioning toward a more circular economy post-pandemic is one way that we can bridge that gap.
Instead of an economy that focuses largely on the production of disposable products, a circular economy focuses on reusing and recycling resources in a way that will help give them new life.
Keeping these products and materials in use longer would allow businesses across Jefferson, Lewis, St. Lawrence and Oneida counties to share resources in a way that would reduce costs, spark innovation and open new opportunities.
In fact, a recent study of the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence region found that putting the circular economy into practice could provide upward of $5 billion of economic benefits.
There will be no one-size-fits-all path to economic recovery for New York, and each region should work to strengthen its communities in a way that suits its businesses and residents best.
I believe that north country businesses can rise to the challenge of overcoming the harsh new economic conditions in which we find ourselves.
To help them get there, we all need to think through ways like the circular economy that can make upstate a leader in economic opportunity and sustainable growth.
Joseph A. Griffo, R-Rome, represents the 47th District in the state Senate.