“You are an economic honey bee. You fly around the country picking up economic development pollen and dropping it off in small towns all over the USA.” Those were Peter Cann’s, head of Economic Development, first words to me as I got into his car to tour Madison County, NY (population 70,337). I gave two presentations, one to a packed auditorium of college students at Morrisville State College, and spent the rest of the day seeing an incredible county.
Cann explained to me a little of the early history of the county, “We were at the forefront of the Industrial Revolution. The many streams and rivers and the power that they produced helped to develop flour, saw and textile mills along with foundries for a rapidly growing country. Transportation was also critical and started with the building of the Erie Canal through the county and later the development of several railroad lines.”
To build one canal required the building of numerous lakes, still in evidence today, and some incredible engineering to build hundreds of locks to elevate and take boats down into the river bottoms.
Some of those early industrialists founded Colgate University in picturesque Hamilton (population 5,733). The town is one of the prettiest that I’ve seen and Colgate has a huge influence in the county. Surprisingly, Cann could only think of two Colgate grads with major businesses in the county. “Too many of them only come here for school and never come back except for homecoming.”
Morrisville State College and Cazenovia College add to the higher education institutions in the county. Total enrollment of the three is over 6,000 students. More on Morrisville’s innovative food and dairy incubators on Wednesday.