Ticonderoga Today – Part 2 of a 4 Part Series
By Brenton Crozier
Part 2 of a 4 Part Series
State of the Re:Union is thrilled to present the next installment of this series put together by the Ticonderoga Revitalization Alliance. If you didn’t catch part 1, you can now! Enjoy and be sure to let us know what you think of the work they’re doing.
Today, Ticonderoga presents a different picture. The graphite mine and mill are long-closed, and the pencil company relocated to Florida. The paper mill, since bought and re-built by International Paper, has become a progressive and concerned employer that, in order to improve labor efficiencies in a competitive market, hires roughly half the employees it used to hire. The rich have moved on to other vacation destinations and Ticonderoga has been slow to adjust to the demands of the new, middle-class tourists. Last year, of some eight million visitors to the Park, only a hundred thousand passed through Ticonderoga.
These days, jobs are hard to come by. Downtown vacancy rates are pressing 40% and property values have plunged. The social costs, especially for the young and uneducated, are daunting. Those who do pursue higher education rarely return to the town, leaving behind low-wage under-employment and an increasing elderly population. Meanwhile, despite the school district’s high ranking, twenty percent of local high school students do not make it to graduation. More than one in four citizens receive some form of poverty assistance and one in seven families face the high social costs of these tough economic times, whether they be drugs, unwanted pregnancies or domestic violence.
From a roar to a whimper, Ticonderoga, like a number of small American towns, has tumbled into its own vicious and closed loop economy, whereby absent a fresh and continuing inflow of capital, people and ideas, the Town is condemned to ever diminishing servings of its stale economic pie.
The Real Conundrum
Companies compete for knowledge-based labor forces –only highly educated, high-pay workers need apply. To retain these “knowledge workers,” communities and companies need to provide a significant improvement in quality of life – an improvement that has proved just out of reach for small, under-resourced towns like Ticonderoga.
Only by taking an integrated look at transport, education, energy efficiency, wellness programs, technological capacity and affordable housing can Ticonderoga hope to attract the value-added and knowledge-based jobs that will help to reverse its downward economic spiral.
Ticonderoga faces simple questions – with complex answers – about how and where to start its revitalization process. First, how can the educational level of its citizenry be raised to attract the jobs that will support such an educated work force? Conversely, how can Ticonderoga attract the companies and jobs it needs with limited purchasing capacity and human educational capital? Second, how can Ticonderoga attract fresh people, capital and ideas to mitigate its current lack of cultural diversity? Today, the town is defined predominantly by two factions– those who hail from one of the six families whose forbears helped to settle the region, who today manage a good part of the Town’s inner workings and “back acreage” land, and the middle class families whose parents and grandparents settled here over the last fifty to seventy-five years, who grew up on Lake George and returned, in some capacity, to their hometown of Ticonderoga. Addressing these factions and facing them, not against each other, but against the town’s current social costs, has been the first step in the revitalization process.
Anatomy of a Town
Over the years, in Ticonderoga, both factions and their splinter groups have been locked in win-lose ideology. Taxes, development and the environment have been sore spots of conflict. The inextricable links between each of these issues have been hard to embrace in their totality. And yet, the anatomy of a small town is truly similar to that of our own. As the song goes, our hipbone really is connected to our thighbone and our thighbone to our shinbone. More profoundly, our internal organs are connected through vital streams just as we are connected to our family, friends, and neighbors. Just as surely, a strong downtown business district will positively impact the Four Corners’ retail district expansion, which will reinforce Ticonderoga’s regional hub status, which will enhance the number of visitors to the Fort as well as to the historic downtown Main Street. Indeed, almost everything impacts everything else.
The alliance has produced video interviews with residents and alliance members alike so that you can hear about their experience and fascinating stories first hand. This is Beth Hill, Executive Director of the recently transplanted Fort Ticonderoga. Below is part one of a two part interview. Visit the Ticonderoga Revitalization Alliance website to watch the other part, the other interviews, and to see the incredible photographs and other inspiring features.
Interviews conducted and produced by Josh Clement. Contact Josh here.
Be sure to visit Monday, July 11th, for part 3, “Birth of the Alliance,” and don’t forget to visit their official website for other features, information and updates.