U.S. Rep. Bill Owens, D-Plattsburgh, predicted voters this fall will be focussed on a candidate with a specific regional economic development plan, more so than on the national economy.
Owens was reacting to the U.S. Department of Labor announcement that the national unemployment rate remained unchanged at 8.2 percent in June, and that U.S. employers had added just 80,000 jobs.
“What people are going to be concerned about is does someone have a plan on the ground, if you will, to help bring jobs,” he said in a telephone interview on Friday.
“As you know, I’ve chatted quite a bit about the idea of reaching out to our Canadian friends in search of bringing more jobs down into all regions of the new district,” he continued.
Owens reiterated his proposal to work through Irving Tissue, a Canadian company that operates a tissue mill in Forward, to arrange for local economic development officials and business leaders to go to Nova Scotia to meet with officials from Canadian companies considering expanding to the United States.
Owens also reiterated his involvement in discussions about potentially extending a natural gas line through Washington County to the International Paper Co. mill in Ticonderoga.
“We think that would have a dramatic impact on really helping folks generate more jobs,” he said.
Owens spoke via telephone after a visit to the Malone Golf Club, in Franklin County, where he met with PGA Secretary Derek Sprague.
“I didn’t learn anything about golfing,” Owens said.
He said he learned that tourism could be part of his economic development plan.
“He (Sprague) indicated that they have about 20,000 non-area residents who come to play golf at their golf course, 80 percent of whom are from Canada,” Owens said. “So they’re generating 16,000 people in their community from Canada. I think that’s very significant.”
Owens said he was on his way to meet with the management of O-Palier Canadian Furniture, a Canadian furniture manufacturer that employs about 15 people at an assembly plant at the Malone Industrial Park.
Owens said that global conditions are partially to blame for the national economic situation.
“We do know some of the reasons for that, and that is the slow down in China and the financial issues that are going on in Europe has greatly diminished our exports and it’s having a negative impact on the global economy,” he said. “I think that absent that, we probably would be doing significantly better.”
Owens is running for re-election in the new 21st Congressional District in November on the Democratic and Working Families Party lines.
The Republican, Conservative and Independence Party candidate is Matt Doheny, an investment fund manager from Watertown.
Doheny is kicking off a summer tour of 50 businesses in the congressional district on Monday.
The Green Party candidate is Donald Hassig, a political activist from St. Lawrence County.