Natural gas concerns dominate economic development forum

NORWICH – The prospect of accomplishing anything at a public meeting may be going by the wayside.

That was the sentiment of at least two of Chenango County’s most prominent leaders following an economic development discussion Thursday that turned into a protest of hydraulic fracturing for natural gas.

Job creating and investment strategies for the Southern Tier - and competition for Governor Andrew Cuomo’s promise of millions of dollars in incentives - were to take center stage, but the still subterranean Marcellus Shale kept spewing its natural gas.

Referring to last Thursday night’s gathering and government board meetings held throughout the county over the past two years, Chenango County Board of Supervisors Chairman Richard B. Decker, R-N. Norwich, had this to say:

“There used to be a time when you could get together for a public program and get things done, work together. Unfortunately, we get interrupted, so we don’t deal with real problems like mandates and taxes.”

Decker was one of about 40 government and business leaders who attended an Empire State Development Office “Open for Business” presentation at Commerce Chenango. The public session in Norwich was designed to harness local expertise and ideas for the Governor’s regional, five-year economic development strategy. It was one of five planned throughout the seven counties within the newly created Southern Tier Regional Economic Development Council.

As one of 10 regions, the STREDC has the opportunity to compete for $120 million in capital and $80 million in New York State Excelsior tax credits, said the session’s moderator, ESD Regional Director and Southern Tier Council Executive Director Kevin McLoughlin.

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