Owens hosts discussion in Saranac Lake

SARANAC LAKE – Congressman Bill Owens visited the Saranac Lake Area Chamber of Commerce to talk about the local economy Friday afternoon.

The topics of the meeting ranged from French language menus at local restaurants, slaughterhouse regulations, the Trudeau Institute and building up the business park in Lake Clear.

The idea was raised during the meeting of possibly creating a new website for the Adirondack regional business park, in order to attract new businesses to the location, which is adjacent to the Adirondack Regional Airport in Lake Clear.

John Vargo, owner and chef at Eat ‘n’ Meet Grill in Saranac Lake, raised some concerns he had about the Food and Drug Administration to Owens. Vargo brought up the possibility of a large animal slaughterhouse in the North Country. He also said it would be a good idea to have cattle farmers band together and create a new brand of “Blue Line” beef.

“Do you have a group of farmers interested in doing this?” Owens asked.

Vargo said yes.

“Would it be worthwhile to get a regional FDA person up here and get together and say ‘How do we do this?'” Owens asked. “We’ll talk to someone about the FDA. We’ll see if we can make something happen.”

Owens made a point to the room that he believed Canadian tourism and trade will continue to be a source of revenue for the North Country.

“What drives our economy is, of course, the Canadians,” Owens said. “Whether you are talking about commercial activity, a business moving into the community, it seems to me that the efforts should be directed north. Because that’s where there are people that can drive an hour and be here, it’s relatively speaking close to home.”

National priorities

With eight months left to go before retirement Owens told the Enterprise he has been focusing on a number of bills concerning employment and business. Owens co-sponsored a bill to extend Trade Adjustment Assistance, which he says will assists people who lost jobs because of free trade agreements. He also co-sponsored the Small Business Investment Act, which gives small business owners tax deductions for depreciating equipment.

For the immediate future, Owens top priority is working on the appropriation bills. Owens serves on the appropriations committee, which is responsible for distributing expenditures for the federal government.

“I want to make sure that the appropriation bills get passed and we have regular order as we roll into fiscal year 2015,” Owens said. “I’m watching that very closely. I have a direct hand in that.”

Owens said he is also watching how the government continues to fund the northern border with Canada, for security and trade.

“I think from an operational standpoint the northern border operates well,” Owens said. “My concern though is that people are so focused on the southern border issues that they will take resources away from the northern border and redirect them to the southern border.”

Owens said it’s important to keep a flow of people and goods from Canada to the United States.

“Because of the percentage of trade we do with Canada, it is more than we do with Mexico,” he said.

Owens continued to say that he hopes to see immigration reform and “serious job legislation” passed.

“So we can get people who are long-term unemployed job training,” Owens said, of possible new job legislation. “Really focusing on what jobs are available, in Saranac Lake what jobs are available, in Lake Placid in Canton, Potsdam. People need targeted training so that they can get back to work.”