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Vision meeting identifies retail sectors

MONTOUR FALLS--Schuyler County Partnership for Economic Development (SCOPED) in collaboration with the village of Montour Falls hosted a community meeting Thursday, May 30, at the fire department. Approximately 20 people shared ideas, project suggestions and thoughts about the vision for Montour Falls, Watkins Glen and Schuyler County.
The conversation at the meeting was led by Jesse Suders, an economic development and community planner with Tetra Tech, one of the consultants working with SCOPED to map out the economic future of Schuyler County. Several other consultants are engaged in the project: Larson Design Group, NOVA Consulting, Elan 3 and BJH Advisors.
Sharing the results of an economic retail and market analysis, Suders said preliminary data suggest Schuyler County may benefit from additional retail opportunities that specialize in health and personal care; specialty clothing, shoes and accessories; and jewelry, luggage and leather goods. Suders indicated these outlets would cater to residents and tourists. For residents, the study suggested additional motor vehicle and parts dealers and automobile dealers may be sustainable. The study suggested while the need for additional dining options was low, there may be opportunity for specialty restaurants and "mom and pop" coffee shops.
The consultants presented a draft vision statement designed to express aspirations for both Montour Falls and Watkins Glen. Pulling from a variety of plans that have already been done, incorporating data learned from the market and real estate analysis and comparisons with towns that are characteristically similar to Montour Falls and Watkins Glen, and using responses submitted through a survey currently being administered by SCOPED, the consultants proposed that Schuyler County should take a "holistic, community-wide approach to increasing investment, expanding year-round economic activity, generating quality housing, and enhancing the natural, cultural, and architectural features with sustainable economic development activities."
Participants shared a variety of ideas for the consultants to consider. Sustaining, enhancing and increasing access to the natural resources, making it easier to move from one community to another via green spaces and preserving the safe atmosphere that currently exists in Schuyler County were of interest to many attending the meeting. Food security and affordable housing were also high on the wish list. In addition, participants expressed a desire for community spaces that allow people to make, create and produce items; access to higher education and opportunities for professional jobs within Schuyler County.
"I think we have a lot going for us," said Judy Phillips of Watkins Glen. "We're small, safe, comfortable, friendly, beautiful communities. Sure we can improve. Everyone can improve. But we're not that bad. We're a pretty cool place with a lot going for us."
It is still possible to share ideas for the economic future of Schuyler County. SCOPED is conducting a variety of focus groups over the next few weeks, will host another community meeting June 10 at 2 p.m. in the Community Center (Watkins Glen) and is conducting a survey that can be completed via paper forms at the village halls and libraries.

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