From its inception Saugerties has attracted people of intellect, energy and drive. When Henry Barclay built his dam around 1825 and harnessed the power of the Esopus Creek for the industrial uses that built the surrounding community, it was generally thought to be a positive step in Saugerties' march to the future. With the rise of mills below the dam, the Industrial Revolution began in Saugerties.
Over the decades these industries both prospered and failed. But with the failures it seemed that succeeding generations managed to adapt, utilize what assets remained, and then prosper again. Today, people want to know what will drive the economy of tomorrow. Where are the sources of revenue that we need to support our local government and its many services? What can we do to foster a renewed prosperity and what is the economic future of Saugerties?
A look at the economic situation in Saugerties today reveals a small town with a proud industrial past struggling with a declining business tax base while contending with providing ever more services being funded by homeowners with modest incomes. What do we do to avoid a situation where Saugerties becomes a community of excessively high costs and too few good job opportunities?
I do not have all the answers to these questions, but the situation is not beyond our control. The decisions our local officials make impact our economic development in many meaningful ways. Where we seek guidance, and the policies we employ in making our decisions are important in positioning our community to meet the future.
I believe water can play a role again not so much by our harnessing its power, but by ensuring a clean and abundant supply of it. This region is blessed with tremendous water assets. Other regions of the United States are starting to reach their limits of growth because of concerns over water. It would be far-sighted for this town to identify and begin to protect all its water resources. Similarly, Saugerties should begin to identify and catalog its other assets such as our land, scenic, cultural and historic resources.
By taking these actions and encouraging the growth and development of this town to comport with the outlines expressed in the Comprehensive Plan for the Town of Saugerties adopted in 1999, the town can position itself to attract the type of industries that everyone desires. The Hudson Valley between Poughkeepsie and Glens Falls is becoming widely known as the Hudson Valley High-Tech Corridor, the eastern seaboard equivalent of California's Silicon Valley. Computer technology, telecommunications, nanotechnology, biotechnology research and energy firms are springing up in the region as a result of proximity to research and educational facilities in the valley and to the quality of life that this valley offers.
These industries are frequently unobtrusive and quiet, and the people associated with them are educated and well compensated. Saugerties should become more aggressive in its quest to attract this type of industry.
It has been a long time since Henry Barclay's dam has been of economic benefit locally, but the spirit, creativity and ingenuity that animated Barclay and the other entrepreneurs that followed him can serve as an example for us today.
- Mark H. Knaust