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Consultant: Ogdensburg must market itself to Canada

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OGDENSBURG — The best hope for the city’s economic future can’t be found in St. Lawrence County. It doesn’t lie in New York state, either. In fact, you would have to look north, across the St. Lawrence River, to see the answer.

Michael B. Taylor and Neil W. Pariser of the Newton, Conn., firm Vita Nuova LLC presented the findings of a market analysis study to the City Council on Monday, identifying Canada as the source of commerce.

Within a two-hour drive of the city, Canada boasts more than six times more households, 900,000, than New York, at 137,000, said Mr. Pariser, a consultant, who also said Canadians are making more money than their American counterparts.

“Within our two-hour drive time, the median income on the New York side is $42,000,” he said. “For the Canadians, it is $73,000. Canadian income is higher, and it has been for years.”

Though Canadian shoppers already cross the Ogdensburg-Prescott International Bridge to buy gasoline and groceries in the city, there are opportunities for north country businesses to capture more of their dollars. Mr. Pariser said Ogdensburg is missing out on Canadians eager to buy cars or motor vehicle parts, clothing, accessories, consumer electronics and appliances.

“You also have a vacant movie theater that could serve as an anchor for downtown development. It must be reopened,” he said. “There is a large anecdotal need for marine repair and boat repair.”

Mr. Pariser urged Ogdensburg to build more multifamily housing, such as townhouses or condominiums, to retain the high number of renters in the area and attract seasonal residents from the north.

“Nearly 40 percent of units in Ogdensburg are rental,” he said. “Multifamily housing is viable on BOA (Brownfields Opportunity Area) sites, and housing developers have expressed interest in BOA sites.”

The city should be able to attract more tourists with its scenery and history, such as Fort de la Presentation, Mr. Pariser said.

“You need more staffing and funding for culture,” he said. “Capitalize on Ogdensburg’s assets — in marketing, you sell the sizzle, not the steak, and the sizzle here is on the waterfront.”

The study was part of Ogdensburg’s Brownfields Opportunity Area study, one component of an effort to clean, develop and market former industrial sites around the city.

Interim City Planner Andrea L. Smith said Wednesday that the city’s waterfront planning and development process is moving along nicely, even though the brownfields still wait to be built upon.

“We need to find the right balance between the community’s vision and the developers’ needs,” she said. “To do that, we’re listening to everybody now. We’re investing the time upfront. We need to address our zoning code and our tax structure. That is really the goal, and right now that isn’t the reality.”

She said there is still much work to be done before ground is broken on any of the sites. For example, the city’s code doesn’t deal with multi-unit buildings.

Mr. Pariser said revising city policies is a prerequisite to any development on the sites.

“It is important. To prepare sites for developers, you can’t have question marks.”

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