LITTLE VALLEY — One Cattaraugus County lawmaker thinks the county’s continuing decline in population is a reason to make some changes.
“If we continue to do the same things we’ve been doing, how can we expect a positive outcome?” asked Legislator Joseph Snyder, R-Ischua, during a meeting of the County Legislature’s Development and Agriculture Committee on Wednesday.
“Our young people continue to leave the area for jobs elsewhere,” Snyder said. In addition to trying to retain young people, county government should reach out to successful former residents who may be in a position to bring jobs to Cattaraugus County.
“There are good things we’ve got to sell,” Snyder said. The biggest thing is lifestyle, he said.
CRYSTAL ABERS, director of the county Department of Economic Development, Planning and Tourism, said changes have been made in response to conditions. With the county’s new Comprehensive Plan and a new profile in the works, they will provide marketing tools to promote the county.
Abers said that after working with municipalities over the past several years, many have begun to focus on improving their downtown areas. This is something that appeals to younger people, she added.
One of the biggest things that would attract more younger people to the county is the availability of high-speed broadband for Internet access, Abers said. The county and Southern Tier West Regional Planning and Development Board are working to improve high-speed Internet access, she said.
Snyder said the continued loss of population was not a reflection on Abers’ office, but he suggested carving the tourism duties out of her office and contracting with Ellicottville tourism officials for those services. This would allow her staff to focus more on economic development, he said.
“If our kids don’t want to live here, it’s over,” said Legislator Dan Hale, R-Portville. “You’ve got to create a place people want to go.”
Snyder said, “What are we missing? How do we get kids to move back here?”
He called for a restructuring of the office. “We have to do things differently,” he said.
Minority Leader Susan Labuhn, D-Salamanca, suggested focusing on how to get students from Jamestown Community College and St. Bonaventure University to stay in the area after graduation.
LEGISLATOR John Padlo, D-Olean, said, “I’d like to see some good-paying jobs.” He called for some shovel-ready sites that would be ready to go and to “market the hell out of it.”
He suggested some agriculture-related companies would find this dairy county a good home.
Snyder said, “It’s going to take some of our sons and daughters (who have moved away) to start businesses here. We have a lifestyle here that is better than most other areas. How do we recruit our sons and daughters back here — in spite of New York state?”
Hale pointed out that “destination models do work. Ellicottville is a perfect example.”
Snyder pressed his belief that a reorganization of the Department of Economic Development, Planning and Tourism “could help you to do better to focus on the things you are really good at.”