Shaping our economic destiny

(Photo by Dion Ogust)

(Photo by Dion Ogust)

Anxieties about the global economy inevitably raise questions about the local economy. More than 20 new businesses opened in Saugerties last year alone, which suggests our economy is doing pretty well. But what about the future? What can we do to foster a vibrant and sustainable local economy for years to come? How can we keep and grow good local jobs?

These are the questions that concern Sustainable Saugerties Transition Town, according to group member Ray Bergen. Sustainable Saugerties seeks to address these issues and empower residents to shape a sustainable local economy of their own design. The group will hold a panel-led community discussion titled Revisioning Local Economies on Thursday, March 14 from 7-10 p.m. at the Saugerties Performing Arts Factory. The event will feature an interactive forum with speakers from 7 to 8:30 p.m., and a cash bar with live music from 8:30 to 10 p.m. Attendees are encouraged to use the latter portion of the evening for casual networking with other proponents of a strong local economy. There is no admission fee, but donations will be accepted.

Panelists include Joan Hoffman, professor of economics at John Jay College (CUNY); March Gallagher, the county’s deputy director of economic development; and Ajax Green, founder/CEO of the localist networking organization RE>THINK LOCAL.

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Panelists will discuss how local independent businesses are models for economic development and how these businesses can benefit from county resources and expertise; how to keep more money in the local economy; what our future economy should look like — including developing community capital and business-to-business credit exchanges — and how local economic development can be integrated into wider community development plans.

Sustainable Saugerties is a part of the Transition Initiative, an international movement promoting practical projects at the local level to create self-sufficient communities. Transition groups seek to address issues like rising energy costs and peak-oil, climate change and economic instability. Projects often focus on making the most of local resources, including food from farms and permaculture gardens, as well as local goods, services and know-how. Transition Towns aim to be pro-active groups that mold the future instead of waiting to let it happen.

The Sustainable Saugerties organization was born in January, 2012 when 25 people gathered at the Inquiring Mind bookstore in response to a mailing. The group began by showing monthly films on the topics of energy and sustainability — particularly how other communities have positively reacted to universal issues of energy, ecology and economy. Presently the organization has about 150 participants. Other towns like Woodstock, Kingston, Rhinebeck, New Paltz and Marbletown have also formed groups.

For more information, email sustainablesaugerties@gmail.com.

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