Lewis County: Maintenance of existing assets key

Growth in Lewis County, which tallied its population at 27,224 according to 2012 U.S. Census estimates, has historically been a story more fraught with the travails of manufacturing days gone by.

In 2013, the county lost about 70 manufacturing jobs with the closing of Interface Sealing Solutions in Croghan and Harrisville Dry Kiln plant.

“Manufacturing is very difficult in this county — we just hope to maintain what we have,” Richard H. Porter, executive director of the County of Lewis Industrial Development Agency, said.

Nonetheless, Otis Technologies, Lyons Falls, was last month awarded a $39.2 million Army contract to supply weapons cleaning kits through Sept. 23, 2016, which the company says could result in additional jobs.

The most active new development in the county are wind projects at Roaring Brook, slated for completion in the spring, and the Copenhagen Wind Farm, slated for operation in late 2014 or early 2015. Neither project, though, will create more than 10 jobs after construction, Mr. Porter said.

“We’re fighting to survive,” Mr. Porter said. “We’re not located close enough to Fort Drum for it to impact the county.”

Maple Ridge Wind Farm, a prominent 12-by-3 mile stretch of land off Route 177 through the towns of Martinsburg, Lowville, Watson and Harrisburg peppered with 195 wind turbines and built about seven years ago, has also been a success story for the county. It has the capacity to produce enough power for 96,000 homes. The project also brought more than $55 million into the local economy, creating roughly 400 construction jobs and 35 full-time local jobs. In addition to millions in annual tax payments landowners involved receive $1 million in annual revenue.

Agriculture, particularly dairy, will always be the county’s top industry and is stable; the local foods movement gaining traction doesn’t necessarily create jobs, but helps retain agriculture jobs, Mr. Porter said. He added that infrastructure limits Lewis County’s ability to grow, particularly the fact that it doesn’t have much excess capacity for water and sewer.

-Leah Buletti