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Clarkson forum addresses economic development in north country

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POTSDAM — Area students, faculty, college presidents and leaders of regional economic development gathered in the Student Center Forum at Clarkson University to exchange creative thoughts, ideas and opportunities to further economic development and innovation in the north country Monday afternoon.

The program called “Building the North Country’s Innovation Economy Through Technology Commercialization & New Business Start-Ups” began at 1:30 p.m. with a reception and innovation showcase that featured the work of students.

Students were able to present their start-up businesses and ideas to board members of the Seaway Private Equity Corporation and others who attended the forum, which was open to the public.

Sophomore Paul B. Hyman, an engineering and management major at Clarkson, has been working on building up his business, Prometheus Safety Solutions, for more than a year. It’s a business that makes safety products for consumers and first responders. Mr. Hyman said he’s currently working on the business’s first product, a fire-prevention program for clothes dryers.

“It intervenes at the very beginning stages of a dryer lint fire,” he said. “It extinguishes the fire and alerts emergency responders as well as the home’s occupants.”

Mr. Hyman said that at the age of 17 he became a volunteer firefighter in his hometown of Port Washington, which contributed to his ideas for fire safety.

“If you look at the records, Clarkson has way above the collegiate average for start-ups per semester,” he said. “These businesses are taking root in Potsdam. It’s a small community, but they’re really taking off and becoming more high-tech and involved in a lot of different industries.”

Jason Lane, co-author of Universities and Colleges as Economic Drivers and deputy director for research at the Rockefeller Institute for Government, gave a keynote address to all in attendance, which was followed by a panel discussion featuring Clarkson President Anthony G. Collins, Jefferson Community College President Carole McCoy, SUNY Potsdam Interim President Dennis Hefner, Jefferson County Job Development Corporation CEO Don Alexander and CITEC Executive Director William Murray, the North Country Regional Economic Development Council’s liaison to the Higher Education and Research & Development Consortium (HEARD).

Mr. Lane said colleges that focus on teaching students entrepreneurship will not only help small towns survive, but also will allow for their economies to thrive.

“If you think about where the world economy is going, it is really going to be driven by innovation and the innovation is going to come from students who bring in new ideas and think of things in a fresh way with a fresh perspective,” he said.

Mr. Lane said that although this was only his third time visiting the north country, he loves the community and the way people work together for the success of the region.

“The creation of these start-up companies help students develop new companies that are based in St. Lawrence County, and, if successful, will generate new jobs and bring money back circulating in the economy.”

In attendance at the forum was Lonnie T. Threatte, Governor Andrew Cuomo’s assistant deputy secretary for education. Mr. Threatte said the forum embodies economic development initiatives that the governor has been working toward.

He said that the North Country Regional Economic Development Council has done very well over the past couple of years, bringing in funding and grants.

“The north country does a great job of collaborating and talking. You’ve got the colleges here, but also the businesses, nonprofits, community leaders and you have the students, who are the x-factor because they have the drive, excitement, ideas and push,” Mr. Threatte said. “Being able to bring all those people to the table is one of the greatest strengths of the north country.”

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