Dear Utica: Just Keep Diggin’

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Yesterday I read an obituary of sorts in the New York Times detailing the brutal unraveling and untimely death of one of Utica’s highest hopes, the chip plant that was slated to bring 1,000 jobs to Central New York.  Political proponents of the push for nanotechnology in Utica say this is an unfortunate stumbling block in a much longer journey, while others are saying this is the beginning of the end for the near-future prospect of high-tech jobs in  the area.  For sure, it sounds like political posturing and polarization are placing nanotechnology on life support in the CNY region.

Years ago in Rochester, there was an idea to propel tourism and economic growth that we thought would put my home city on the map.  Ask ANY Rochestarian about one of the worst blunders in our history and most will likely answer quickly and effortlessly, “The Fast Ferry.”  Without going into detail, extremely poor planning, lack of interest, horrible marketing and partisan politics turned a hopeful new ferry between Rochester and Toronto into less than two years of tumultuous service and a tremendous money pit.  It was a disaster.

But the worst thing the Fast Ferry did was create a gun-shy population that is, even a decade later, tentative to embrace any ambitious initiatives.  The Fast Ferry’s horrific legacy will always be referenced as a reason to NOT do something in Rochester… “why should we build a [insert initiative here]?  It’s the Fast Ferry all over again!”

Don’t let the nanotechnology be Utica’s “Fast Ferry.”  No matter how it works out in the end, see it as a success or an isolated failure.  Don’t let it taint your vision of the future, don’t let it stifle the hope I see in the eyes of so many when I walk the streets and frequent the establishments in Utica.

It’s been nearly two years since I first visited Utica.  Since then, I have introduced many others to a place I now travel to regularly, not because I get paid to do it, but because I love it.  I have friends there now that I will be inviting to my wedding.  I took my father and my mother there and they were so high about the things they saw and the people they met, they continue to rave about it today.

My Dad and I on the deck of Ocean Blue

The Utica I know doesn’t need politicians fighting about how to bring jobs to the region.  The Utica I see doesn’t wait for others to do it for them… they’re gonna do it their way.  The Utica I love knows it has a long way to go, and the hard working citizens welcome the journey.  The Utica that will always be a part of me will succeed, politics or not, because the people know that when we support the common effort to lift a community, there’s nothing that can stop us.

Sure, it’s easy for me to type words on a page from 120 miles away.  The reality is, CNY needs good jobs.  I believe they will come, in spite of politics, in spite of posturing and infighting in places that know little about the friendly, hard working people in a place I now call my second home.  There are so many good things happening in Utica and I know the momentum will only continue.  Keep your heads high, keep moving forward, for the Utica I know will brush off this temporary loss and keep diggin’.  The future of Central New York doesn’t rest in the hands of Albany, it will exists in the passion, the vision and the never-say-die people of a region I’ve come to love.