Editorial: Destination ‘yes’

Editorial: Destination ‘yes’

Oneonta’s new mayor, Mark Drnek, dropped a surprise when the Otsego County Chamber of Commerce held its 2022 virtual ‘State of the State’ on January 11 and he told Cooperstown Mayor Ellen Tillapaugh that he wants to collaborate with her and other regional leaders on a “destination marketing” campaign to attract new residents to an Oneonta-to-Cooperstown corridor.

His proposal – one he freely admitted was a surprise to all on the Zoom meeting – came after Mayor Tillapaugh said she’d gently tease his predecessor, Gary Herzig, that Oneonta was home to Cooperstown Baseball World and Cooperstown All-Star Village, and they “really benefit that community’s lodging and business community.” With Cooperstown Dreams Park in the Town of Hartwick, she said, “I always joke that the Village of Cooperstown is the only one without an actual baseball complex named after Cooperstown.”

She’s right, of course – we wonder if players and parents unfamiliar with the region aren’t a little disappointed to learn that the Village itself is some 20 miles away from the place to which they’ve traveled to say they played baseball “in Cooperstown.”

Her comment speaks directly to Mayor Drnek’s idea – a regional marketing strategy that tells people looking for a new place to call home that the whole of Otsego County provides all manner of opportunity.
Mayor Drnek sketched his thoughts on reviving Oneonta’s downtown and attracting those he called “new, remote-working, and entrepreneurial” to the region: making Market Street an entertainment district with social options for 25-to-39-year-olds, a children’s museum based on the city’s railroad history, tapping into Cooperstown’s reputation as a great place to live.

He shared his plan, too, to address what he called Oneonta’s ‘community wellness’ – mental health services, food insecurities, housing, and related issues.

“It’s a big ask,” he told the Chamber, “but we’re going to be realistic.”

All of these ideas – like so many that community, state, and national leaders present during those beginning-of-the-year addresses – are a big ask. Sometimes the presentations border on paint-by-numbers platitudes that evaporate minutes after the speech is complete. Sometimes the day-to-day realities of running a local, state, or federal government block the larger dreams that sound so good every January. Sometimes the news cycle is so overbearing that it’s impossible to call up the optimism necessary to move those dreams into reality.

But we have to start somewhere. If figuring out a way to share with the nation the fact that Otsego County is a great place to live and work, then we’re all in. With its colleges and businesses, Oneonta is a key economic driver. With tourism, baseball, and Bassett, Cooperstown has everything to offer. The towns and villages in between and surrounding individually and collectively bring their own qualities and identities to the overarching message.

Central to the effort: Congressman Antonio Delgado’s continued push for rural broadband expansion as part of President Biden’s infrastructure investment. That was the centerpiece of his presentation during the Chamber’s session; Otsego’s state and county leaders echoed the call. Without county-wide broadband operating at full strength and accessible to all, even the best marketing plans fall short.
Let’s be realistic, then, as we head for ‘the big ask,’ but let’s be optimistic and work toward it. There’s nothing to lose, and everything to gain.

One thought on “Editorial: Destination ‘yes’

  1. Chip Northrup

    Excellent idea – it’s no secret what new residents are attracted to:

    1. Good schools
    2. Good jobs
    3. Affordable housing

    No gimmicks or PR campaigns necessary

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