Today, Ticonderoga presents a different picture. The graphite mine and mill are long-closed, and the pencil company relocated to Florida. The paper mill, since bought and re-built by International Paper, has become a progressive and concerned employer that, but in order to improve labor efficiencies in a competitive market, it employs roughly half the employees it used to have. Most of the rich have moved on to other vacation destinations and Ticonderoga has been slow to adjust to the needs of the new, middle-class tourists. Of some eight million visitors to the Park, less than a hundred thousand pass through Ticonderoga, with most only visiting Fort Ticonderoga but not the downtown itself.
These days, jobs are hard to come by. Downtown vacancy rates are high and property values have plunged. The social costs, especially for the young and uneducated, are daunting. Those who do pursue higher education rarely return to the town, leaving behind low-wage under-employment and an increasing elderly population. More than one in four citizens receive some form of poverty assistance.
There was a time when prospective employers could be attracted by the promise of low-wage labor and tax concessions. Today, the rules have changed.
Now, companies compete for knowledge-based labor forces. To be able to provide, draw and retain such workers, communities and companies need to provide a significant improvement in quality of life – an improvement that has proved just out of reach for small, under-resourced towns like Ticonderoga. Only by taking an integrated look at economics and employment, education and training, tourism and entertainment, and other factors can Ticonderoga hope to attract the value-added and knowledge-based jobs that are needed to help revitalize the town.
Encourage economic growth – Attract new businesses and support existing ones, rehabilitate/create new uses for existing buildings, increase employment opportunities and workforce skills, and develop creative approaches to investment and finance.Within this challenging context, the Ticonderoga Revitalization Alliance (TRA) seeks to help create a new prosperity in the Ticonderoga area. TRA combines four critical components into a unified vision and structure for improvement and innovation:
- Strengthen tourism, arts, and entertainment - Increase the number of new visitors to the area and draw more of the current ones to the downtown area and to the range of activities and attractions in the area. Help further strengthen the arts and entertainment opportunities in the area, especially year-round opportunities that promote economic growth.
- Create and strengthen partnerships - Encourage a higher level of interaction between key actors such as the government, business community, Fort Ticonderoga, North Country Community College, and various organizations that are currently in place, to help improve the economic vitality and well-being of the area.
- Improve the quality of life – Support efforts to enhance the overall well-being of the area, in sectors such as health, education, housing, transportation, energy, and parks and recreation. Building such a strong social foundation will also promote job creation and higher quality employment opportunities, and help retain youth in the area, which is a TRA priority.
Any of these might happen alone but this vision of a new prosperity can only be fully achieved by partners interacting in a unified way. Only then will Ticonderoga achieve true and long lasting prosperity!