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Incomplete report

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In defending a report that his group recently published on enhancing economic development, David A. Mankiewicz said it’s imperative to concentrate on making large businesses and industries even larger.

Mr. Mankiewicz is senior vice president of the CenterState Corporation for Economic Opportunity. The Syracuse-based agency last month issued its report “New York Agenda for Economic Opportunity,” which focused on making the 12-county region the organization represents more globally competitive.

But the report has been criticized by some as largely overlooking the north country. Members of the North Country Alliance board of directors, in fact, passed a resolution in November that said findings from CenterState were “not in the best interest of the north country, since there is insufficient representation, consultation and collaboration. ... Efforts are Syracuse- and Onondaga County-centric with minimal north country benefit.”

Mr. Mankiewicz, however, believes the document merely reflects where resources will do the most good.

“When you look across 12 counties at the numbers, the dominant numbers are coming out of Onondaga and Oneida counties,” Mr. Mankiewicz said for a story in Wednesday’s issue of the Watertown Daily Times. “They’re bigger and have bigger businesses. The key message is it’s a regional strategy that isn’t meant to supersede anything that’s done locally. This is about a much larger regional strategy, and we have to face a future where the competition is global, not local. The report itself is really focused on large-scale economic strategies to help pull the region past the economic recession and create growth — it’s not focused on local activities.”

One of the north country’s major assets ignored for the most part by CenterState’s report was the agriculture industry. Mr. Mankiewicz said, in essence, that this field didn’t receive larger play in the report because the people who work in it don’t earn high enough wages.

Here is where Mr. Mankiewicz is mistaken in his rationale. Yes, much of our economy has gone global. Many large and small businesses find themselves competing against firms from other corners of the world.

But this doesn’t mean that what occurs at a large corporation is any less local than the Mom and Pop located across the street. Wherever people are working, it’s a local phenomenon for those living in that community. And it’s also a local experience for anyone on-site, no matter what part of the globe they’ve come from.

To shore up large businesses while watching small companies wither is a disaster waiting to happen. These communities may become wholly dependent on the giant industry in their town — but what happens when that firm decides to move its operations to a more competitive region? The town will be left with no large corporation as well as a dwindling number of small and medium-sized companies.

Any sensible strategy for economic growth must find ways to incorporate small businesses into its planning. This should complement any tactics used to attract and support larger industries, which will depend on vibrant communities for their staffing needs.

Such communities need prosperous small businesses, a good housing stock, decent schools and a variety of service organizations. To ignore anything but the largest entities in promoting economic growth is to cut off the very resources that will sustain that growth. CenterState should go back to the drawing board and revise its document with a wider focus in mind.

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