WATERTOWN, N.Y. (WWNY) - From a state grant to revitalize a downtown to layoffs, hires and businesses that come and go, we take a look at the ups and downs of the north country's economy in 2019.
“Potsdam is the recipient of $10 million Downtown Revitalization Initiative. Congratulations, Potsdam!”
That was the big announcement in October from Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul when Potsdam accepted $10 million to improve its downtown.
“And that will allow Alcoa and the state to agree to a contract that keeps 450 jobs right here for seven years,” was an announcement from Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced a deal in March between the New York Power Authority and the Alcoa plant in Massena.
The deal extended a previous contract, which was set to expire. That contract included the protection of 145 jobs now supported by Arconic, which separated from Alcoa in 2016 but maintained operations at the same site.
It was a tough start to 2019 for a zinc mine in Fowler, but a hopeful end to the year. The mine laid off half of its workforce in February. About nine months later in December, the mine called 26 miners back. It now employs 107 people.
In Watertown, the Concentrix call center laid off more than 200 employees in two weeks. That was in February before the call center closed altogether.
“This is a major blow to our community,” WorkPlace executive director Cheryl Mayforth said. That's a lot of people. Many of those people fall in different categories.”
Earlier this month the Watertown YMCA bought part of the former Concentrix building for $500,000 for an aquatic, racket and wellness center projected to cost $16 million.
“This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity for downtown and for our community's health,” YMCA CEO Denise Young said. “So, we're excited.”
In July, the Watertown International Airport got $5 million to build an aircraft rescue and firefighting building.
“We have never had a true airport fire station on the grounds before,” airport manager Grant Sussey said.
Watertown's Salmon Run Mall has seen business come and go throughout the year.
With more people shopping online, big-box stores are moving out.
In July, the mall decided to map out the future in a plan called “Redefining What's Next.” That plan included a variety of entertainment businesses. The mall secured a deal with Hobby Lobby to hopefully move in by the spring of 2020.
Moving business back home, north country native Alex Morgia purchased space at the Jefferson County Industrial Park in October, bringing Monthly Boxer from Syracuse to Watertown. It's an e-commerce operation that packs and ships about 20,000 subscription boxes across the country each month.
“In Syracuse, we were very constrained by both space and by people,” Morgia said. “It was hard finding quality people that wanted to do the work.”
In October, owners of Alteri's Bakery in Watertown announced the famous bread recipe might make a comeback at a new location.
"It allows me to continue what my great-grandfather started, what my grandfather had done, what my parents had done,” Mark Alteri said.
North country chain Jreck Subs got a fresh start in November when the company changed ownership and was sold to Fresh Start Franchising. That sale is still awaiting approval.
Ox Industries, a paper company operating in West Carthage, announced it would buy the former Climax Manufacturing building in Lowville, bringing in up to 30 new jobs.
2019 enhanced energy across the north country. More solar farms started popping up, including in Clayton, Denmark, and Chaumont.
In December, the U.S., Canada, and Mexico reached an agreement on a new North American free trade deal. The news came as a relief for dairy farmers..
“The USMCA agreement will level the playing field,” Jefferson County agricultural coordinator Jay Matteson said.
As we head into the New Year, minimum wage workers will get a 70-cent hourly pay raise. Some small business owners are afraid they won’t be able to make ends meet.