Friday’s scheduled visit to the General Electric campus in Schenectady by President Barack Obama can’t come soon enough for the local business community and area politicians, who view this trip as a chance to generate real excitement about the region’s economy.
Chuck Steiner, president of the Chamber of Schenectady County, said the president’s visit is the best kind of public relations campaign for Schenectady businesses and suggested that the resulting publicity surrounding the event could have limitless potential.
“Who knows what people might take away,” said Steiner.
He said it’s important for businesses in the area to try to capitalize on any opportunities they might have in the wake of President Obama's shining a light on the region’s capabilities. Steiner said this is particularly relevant to the technology sector in Schenectady, which could benefit from the publicity that comes with a presidential visit.
“It is a ready-made situation because the president chose to be here,” said Steiner. He laid out a scenario where a trade magazine that was previously unfamiliar with the region and its capabilities chose to highlight Schenectady after learning about it during Friday’s trip, which in turn could attract attention by people and businesses not otherwise familiar with the city.
As evidence of the economic possibilities, Steiner said the president’s last visit to the region benefited Hudson Valley Community College and the Capital Region.
Schenectady Mayor Brian Stratton, who plans on presenting the president with a key to the city, said people will have to take notice of Schenectady as the result of Obama making a deliberate choice to come here.
“There is a high level profile for Schenectady to gain,” said Stratton, who suggested that renewable energy industries could thrive in the area as a direct consequence of the president’s visit. He said Schenectady is New York’s original tech valley and predicted that it could be poised for another strong period in green technology.
Assemblyman Jim Tedisco, R-Glenville, who has not yet officially been included in the planned festivities, said the president’s visit could help advance the cause of green jobs. This is of particular interest to Tedisco, as he has been advancing legislation on the issue since 2006.
For her part, U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, who will be joining the president on the trip with U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer and U.S. Rep. Paul Tonko, D-Amsterdam, said she expects the president to be greeted by businesses and a work force that are ready to help lead America’s economic recovery.
“I’m proud to welcome President Obama back to the Capital Region,” said Gillibrand. “I look forward to discussing the next steps to create jobs and the potential for economic growth right here in the region.”
Also on the plane will be U.S. Rep. Chris Gibson, R-Kinderhook. Schenectady is part of Tonko’s district, but Gibson is coming along because many General Electric employees are his constituents.
One business already excited is Ambition. The Jay Street eatery will be taking advantage of the trip by offering the special Obama Ambition Salmon, which is served on a wheat wrap with spinach pistachio pesto.
According to Stratton, though, the entire city is charged up about the visit and excited about what it means to the local economy. “People are talking about it on the street and in diners,” the mayor said.
Along with outside media, local news organizations will be covering the visit in force. YNN cable news channel, for example, is planning on covering the president’s visit from the landing of Air Force One at Albany International Airport around noon until it takes off in the early afternoon. The news channel will also be airing a special episode of Capital Tonight at 8 p.m., which will revolve on the day’s events and is likely to feature an interview with Tonko.