By RON JOHNSON
In June 2006, 65,400 people were employed in Chautauqua County. Just seven years later only 57,700 people are employed. This is a stunning loss of 7,700 people employed in our County. Chautauqua County needs new leadership to reverse this disastrous decline. That is what I will bring to the office of county executive. As a businessman I know what it takes to attract and retain business.
Why do many of our children and grandchildren fail to make their lives in Chautauqua County? Because they see their opportunities getting fewer and fewer. Why do so many communities from Cherry Creek to Jamestown to Stockton to Celoron to Dunkirk see many of their houses deteriorating? Because there are 7,000 fewer people than just seven years ago who are working and who need and can afford good housing. Why are so many of our school districts seeing their enrollments plummeting? Because there are fewer working age families finding their economic opportunity here in Chautauqua County.
With all of the wonderful qualities of Chautauqua County why is our county continuing to lose population and jobs when it should be attractive to business? We have a magnificent Lake Erie shoreline and harbors. We have the world-famous Chautauqua Institution. We have a four-season climate. We have Interstate 90 and 86 and three major rail lines. We even have access to cheap hydropower to attract and expand businesses.
New leadership in the county can reverse this awful decline. I will create a partnership that will lead Chautauqua County to a brighter future with new jobs and new opportunity. My partners will be the town, village and city officials who want to help bring new jobs to their communities. My partners will be the business leaders in Chautauqua County who want to expand their businesses and start new businesses here. My partners will be our state and federal representatives who want to strengthen the economy of Chautauqua County. My partners will include the work force here in our county. My partners will include state and federal agencies that can bring real resources to bear to help us create industrial parks, business parks and technology parks in Chautauqua County.
JCC and SUNY Fredonia and the Incubator in Dunkirk can be the catalyst for new companies and good new jobs coming to Chautauqua County. I will make sure that Chautauqua County is the leader in using the new State initiative, Start-Up New York, to work with JCC and SUNY Fredonia to create new jobs in our county within my first year as county executive. We cannot wait for others to help us. We must help ourselves. No more excuses out of Mayville.
While the nation has been gaining manufacturing jobs recently, Chautauqua County has had a frightening string of losses. Why did the county lose Petri Baking in Silver Creek? Why did the county fail to find a buyer for Crawford Furniture in Jamestown? Why did the county lose Carriage House in Dunkirk? Why did the County lose SYSCO Foods in Falconer?
New leadership at the county Industrial Development Agency is desperately needed. We cannot afford to lose a new company, as happened this year, because the county did not know that the development site lacked a necessary water supply. If the November election continues the "status quo," the next four years in Mayville will surely mean continued decline.
In my first year as county executive I will make sure the county has an accurate inventory of all properties that are available for development. If development sites lack water, sewer or other basic infrastructure we will address those needs with our partners.
It is a challenge attracting and keeping jobs in New York. But being in New York is no excuse for Chautauqua County to continue to do as poorly as it has in retaining and creating jobs for our people. The Great Recession of 2008-09 is no excuse for the horrific loss of jobs here in 2013. While there are 7,700 fewer people employed in Chautauqua County than before the Great Recession, the state of New York, as a whole, has recovered all of the jobs lost statewide.
As a businessman, I have learned that an entrepreneur must have the courage to take calculated risks. Our county must invest in industrial parks, business parks and technology parks. Chautauqua County, once again, must have shovel-ready sites for development. Chautauqua County must, once again, be "open for business." As county executive, I know that we can do better. We can reverse this awful, stunning decline in the number and quality of jobs available to our residents.
Ron Johnson, Fredonia resident, is a candidate for Chautauqua County executive.