MAYFIELD — Nearly 70% of this year’s graduates from Adirondack Region colleges considered looking for a job in the region and many would consider starting a business in the Adirondacks — clear indications that young people are interested in making their homes in the area if the right career and business opportunities exist. These are among the reasons for Adirondack optimism found in an informal survey of more than 300 graduating students commissioned by the Adirondack Association of Towns & Villages in partnership with public relations firm Behan Communications, Inc.

The survey was commissioned by AATV to gain insight into how the Adirondack Region is perceived as a place to live and build a career in the eyes of the next generation of business and community leaders. Participating colleges were Clarkson University, North Country Community College, Paul Smith’s College, St. Lawrence University, SUNY Adirondack, SUNY Plattsburgh and SUNY Potsdam. The survey findings reinforce the wisdom of the ADVANTAGE Adirondacks economic development strategy unveiled late last year by the Adirondack Partnership, a coalition of local governments, nonprofits, business organizations, colleges and universities, and other Adirondack region organizations, including AATV. This strategy puts a premium on: inspiring entrepreneurship among people who crave the healthy lifestyle available in the region; cultivating sustainable land-based businesses; and improving the region’s connectivity through improved internet and cell phone access, helping Adirondack entrepreneurs do business anywhere in the world.

“Students who choose to go to college in the Adirondack Region are prime candidates to remain or become year-round residents and business leaders,” said AATV President Brian Towers, supervisor of the town of Wells in Hamilton County. “They love the Adirondacks’ natural beauty, tremendous recreational amenities and small, safe communities, and most of them plan to live in a rural area. They want to live here, and there is a real opportunity for local governments and organizations across the region to work with them to help them realize their dreams.”

“So much of what we heard from the students told us, without question, that we are on the right track with the ADVANTAGE Adirondacks strategy,” said Bill Farber, chairman of the Hamilton County Board of Supervisors and immediate past president of AATV. “The key to building a self-sustaining Adirondack economy is transforming our advantages into opportunity through entrepreneurism, education, improved broadband and cell phone coverage, and sustainable use of our tremendous natural resources for tourism and a reinvention of traditional Adirondack industries.”

Among the highlights of the survey:

• 68% of graduating students said they considered looking for a job in the Adirondack Region. This included 82% of the students who lived year-round in the Adirondack Region prior to graduation, and 60% of the students who lived elsewhere on a year-round basis.

• Students are more inclined to start their own business within the Adirondack Region (34%) than outside the region (30%). Of those students who lived year-round in the region prior to graduation, 44% would consider starting a business in the region; 28% of the students who lived elsewhere would consider starting an Adirondack business.

• 53% of students said they would prefer to live in a rural setting, as compared to 37% who prefer the suburbs and 10% who prefer a big city.

• Asked to name the top three things they like about the Adirondacks, 93% of the students said the natural beauty and open space; 68% said outdoor recreational opportunities; and 48% said small, safe communities.

• Asked to name up to three things Adirondack communities must improve in order to retain and attract more young people to live there year-round, 87% chose good-paying jobs; 46% chose more year-round cultural, social and entertainment options; and 41 chose improved internet and cellular coverage. “The students are spot-on that good-paying jobs are central to a sustainable Adirondack economy and sustainable Adirondack communities,” said AATV President Towers.

“AATV is committed to working with The Adirondack Partnership to create these jobs through a reinvention and reinvigoration of traditional land-land-based Adirondack industries and by providing opportunities and encouragement for young entrepreneurs to create jobs for themselves and others.”

Entrepreneurism is already taking root in many corners of the region. Take Matt and Laura O’Brien, for example. After working in the ski industry across the country, the young couple brought their love of the sport — and love of a challenge — to the Town of Speculator in Hamilton County where they purchased the formerly town-owned Oak Mountain ski center and turned it into a year-round attraction with skiing, mountain biking, fine dining and wedding and festival venues. “The Adirondacks are a perfect place for us to realize our dream of running our own business and raising our family in a safe and beautiful setting,” Laura said. “We love the opportunity to grow this business and provide jobs to other young people so they can pursue their dreams.”

A couple of hours northeast, in the Clinton County town of Saranac, another young couple is building a successful future for their growing family on a pasture-based sustainable family farm. “We were originally looking at Vermont, but were drawn to the Adirondack Region because the price of land was about one-third the cost,” said Sarah Vaillancourt, who along with her husband, Josh, own Woven Meadows Farm, a purveyor of dairy products and meats that will soon expand into cheese making. “Now we can’t imagine doing this anywhere else. The Adirondacks are so authentic and welcoming. Our business is growing. There are more opportunities here than we ever imagined.”

“The days of the ‘woe is me’ attitude are over when it comes to the Adirondack economy,” said Hamilton County Board of Supervisors Chairman Farber. “The key words now are ‘Advantages’ and ‘Opportunities,’ and we see plenty of both reflected in the thoughts and feelings of the college students who will become our community and business leaders of tomorrow.”

AATV surveyed 336 associates, bachelor’s and graduate degree candidates via an online survey tool in May 2015 in cooperation with Adirondack Region colleges and universities. The survey has a margin of error of plus or minus 6% and is intended only to provide a reasonable indication of the views of Adirondack Region college graduates. Summary of AATV Survey of Graduates from Adirondack Region Colleges and Universities

• 68% of graduating students said they considered looking for a job in the Adirondack Region. This included 82% of the students who lived year-round in the Adirondack Region prior to graduation, and 60% of the students who lived elsewhere on a year-round basis.

• Students are more inclined to start their own business within the Adirondack Region (34%) than outside the region (30%). Of those students who lived year-round in the region prior to graduation, 44% would consider starting a business in the region; 28% of the students who lived elsewhere would consider starting an Adirondack business.

• 53% of students said they would prefer to live in a rural setting, as compared to 37% who prefer the suburbs and 10% who prefer a big city.

• Asked to name the top three things they like about the Adirondacks, 93% of the students said the natural beauty and open space; 68% said outdoor recreational opportunities; and 48% said small, safe communities.

• Asked to name up to three things Adirondack communities must improve in order to retain and attract more young people to live there year-round, 87% chose good-paying jobs; 46% chose more year-round cultural, social and entertainment options; and 41% chose improved internet and cellular coverage.

• 45% of those students who lived in the Adirondack Region on a full-time basis prior to graduation said they planned to continue living and working there. 34% said they plan to live and work elsewhere; 23% were undecided. Of those students who lived outside the Adirondack Region on a year-round basis, 8% planned to stay in the region after graduation; 70 planned to live elsewhere; 22% were undecided.

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