Collins looks back on co-chairing North Country Regional Economic Development Council

Published: May. 5, 2022 at 3:32 PM EDT|Updated: May. 5, 2022 at 3:36 PM EDT
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POTSDAM, New York (WWNY) - During 7 News anchor Jeff Cole’s recent conversation with Tony Collins, the retiring Clarkson University president used the word “selfish” to describe his motivation to serve as co-chair of the North Country Regional Economic Development Council.

That’s the group that competes against other New York regions for tens of millions of dollars in state funding every year.

It turns out, that the word “selfish” doesn’t carry a negative connotation.

“For Clarkson to be successful, we can’t be successful unless our region, unless the village of Potsdam and our region is successful,” he said.

In 2011, Collins became co-chair of the North Country Regional Economic Development Council and for the next several years, year after year, the region brought in hundreds of millions of dollars in the state investment competition.

“I think it surprised people that this region could put a plan together that made sense and the people in Albany would want to invest in,” he said.

Collins would help pitch investable projects to strengthen the economy, from Watertown and Fort Drum to Plattsburgh, to state officials, confident a rising tide can lift all boats.

“We’re trying to attract the best, the best students, faculty. You can’t attract them to a location that’s going in one direction when you’re going in the other direction. So there’s a symbiosis there that is critical. So again, it’s selfish motivation for Clarkson that we want the region to be successful because then we can be successful,” he said.

Collins makes note that Clarkson never requested any funds through the council while he was co-chair, believing he was effective in separating the roles he had to play.

“I would hope that I had been successful in separating the roles as president and co-chair, yet at the same time, I could bring the gravitas of being Clarkson president to the role of co-chair so people would listen to us and know that it was an informed opinion as to why we were putting forward the projects that we put forward,” he said.

Collins stepped away as co-chair a couple of years ago and now will retire from Clarkson after 40 years, 19 as its president. But he feels strongly - the region needs to keep raising its hand for help.

“We can’t rest on our laurels. It needs to be a constant drumbeat. As I said before, the back of the class, raising our hand and saying don’t forget about us,” he said. “We live in a challenged region. It’s not going to come to us naturally so it’s on us to reach out and ask for those resources.”

You can see the first part of Jeff’s conversation with Collins here.

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