Guest Viewpoint: Chamber of Commerce Sees Optimism Ahead

Posted February 26, 2013

Star-Gazette Guest Viewpoint: Chamber of Commerce sees optimism ahead
By Kevin Keeley (2/24/13)

Some things never change. The remarkable resiliency which has characterized the community for generations was called upon in 2012, and the collective response of the community to some hefty challenges is what justifies Chamber of Commerce optimism for the new year.

Make no mistake about it. The challenges are formidable and will not be resolved with papier-mâché prescriptions.

Drilling delays, arena lawsuits, tornado cleanups and helicopter departures test the mettle of economic interests throughout Chemung County and the Southern Tier. On a grander scale, there are unresolved state and federal legislative matters which threaten the economic system’s natural inclination to expand, hire and invest.

Despite all such economic hazards, there is reason to subscribe to the pragmatic positivism of the chamber’s 2012 and 2013 board chairs. At the chamber’s annual meeting of members earlier this year, last year’s leader Ron Bentley and his successor Tom Freeman echoed the promise that in 2013, “Progress will be made.” On virtually all fronts.

As the local economy bemoans the departure of newcomer Sikorsky, other relatively recent additions to the market’s manufacturing base will continue to show signs of increasingly robust health in 2013. Vulcraft, Synthes, DeMet’s and CAF are doing fine. Likewise, veteran industrial leaders like Hilliard, Anchor Glass/Ardagh and Hardinge have good stories to tell.

There are good stories on other fronts as well.

Drilling delays won’t evaporate this month, but progress will be made. Given the years of analysis and the governor’s commitment to let science dictate the decision, New York should announce very soon the rigorous regulations under which high-volume hydraulic fracturing can be employed in horizontal drilling for natural gas. That does not mean actual drilling will be happening any time soon, but finalizing the elusive set of regulations will be a significant step in the right direction.

Another giant step forward for the community in 2013 has already been inked. The First Arena in downtown Elmira has navigated a host of cumbersome legal barriers and reached a court settlement which will enable the facility, finally, to become the community attribute originally envisioned in the late 1990s. Happily, the arena’s finest asset, the feisty and beloved hockey team, will be on the ice to begin pursuit of an ECHL championship next fall. And for many falls to come.

Most of the residue of last summer’s tornado has been cleaned up, repaired or turned into mulch. Although the bizarre storm is not directly economic per se, it did provide a solid demonstration of how well the community responds to a shocking and totally unforeseen and undeserved calamity — such as the loss of a helicopter plant. Sadly, those good paying jobs won’t be replaced so quickly, but progress will be made.

While these items are decidedly anecdotal, they do illustrate the legendary tenacity of the local economy and the good people who make it so. Fortunately, some things never change.

Keeley is president and CEO of the Chemung County Chamber of Commerce.

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