Joanna Richards

Most people have heard of “navigators” for the new health insurance exchanges. They're the trained, impartial guides funded by the federal government to help people make more informed choices as they shop for policies. And then there are private insurance brokers...there's been less talk about it, but they, too, can help consumers sign up for plans.

On the exchanges' first days, both kinds of guides were busy on the front lines of this major policy shift.

New work space fills gap for small food producers

Sep 26, 2013
Joanna Richards

A new commercial kitchen in Sackets Harbor is starting to help small food producers grow their businesses. The shared-use facility is the first of its kind in Jefferson County.

In a dining room full of chattering officials from local government, agriculture and economic development, people dug into the first products of the new kitchen: Christine Hoffman's pepper jelly and fruit jam.

Joanna Richards

Farmers and agricultural industry leaders in the North Country had the ears of state lawmakers yesterday in Watertown. The forum, hosted by State Senator Patty Ritchie, was one of 10 being held throughout the state on the topic of regulatory reform in a variety of industries.

Sequester may mean more cutbacks at Fort Drum

Sep 18, 2013
WRVO file photo

Fort Drum may be facing personnel cutbacks as a result of the federal budget reductions known as sequestration. The post submitted recommendations to the Department of the Army about how it would want to make the cuts, if needed.  

A new report on the status of workers finds the period since the 2008 market crash may turn out to be a “lost decade” for New Yorkers, as wages stagnate and the average time for unemployment lengthens.

Full documentary: New York in the World

Aug 23, 2013

New York in the World, the documentary hosted by Garrick Utley, is now available online. The full, hour-long broadcast, as well as the text of the documentary, is available below. Feel free to leave comments and share with others.

Daniel Lobo/flickr

The September 10 Democratic primary for two city-wide councilor-at-large seats in Syracuse puts the spotlight on crime and the economy.

The four-way race pits two incumbents, Lance Denno and Jean Kessner, who were not endorsed by the city's Democratic Committee and who have been at odds with the administration of Mayor Stephanie Miner at times, are running against two party favorites, Pam Hunter and Jeff Wright. Three of the four joined Grant Reeher for a forum on the Campbell Conversations.

Rep. Richard Hanna chaired a hearing Monday at Binghamton University on the role of universities in job creation. Hanna is chairman of the House of Representatives’ Subcommittee on Contracting and Workforce and the focus of the hearing was on the importance of federal funding.

Harborfest attracts people, dollars to Oswego County

Jul 26, 2013
Oswego Harborfest/Facebook

The city of Oswego's Harborfest began last night, and is estimated to draw more than 100,000 people to the area for a weekend of music, food and fireworks. For Oswego Mayor Thomas Gillen, it's also a boon for the city's coffers.

"We hope to make probably $50 million for the weekend," Gillen said. "It's a big impact on the entire community within ten miles of the city of Oswego. Hotels, restaurants, just general sales tax revenue is dramatically impacted over this. So, it's an incredible economic boon to the city and the community. It comes at a cost, though."

Southern Tier-based Endicott Interconnect Technologies filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy last week. The Broome County high-tech manufacturer, which employs approximately 600 people, plans to continue operations as it reorganizes.

Jonathan Slater teaches communications at SUNY Plattsburgh. It’s the end of the work day, and he’s headed out to his car to go home.

But Slater’s commute involves an international border. He lives on the south shore of Montreal, and commutes to Plattsburgh every day.

"Next stop is the border – and that should take no more than a minute or two, and then home to an evening with my daughter," Slater says as he packs the trunk of his car and drives off.  

Protesters pressure Watertown Walmart on animal welfare

Jul 9, 2013
Joanna Richards / WRVO

Animal welfare demonstrators caught motorists' and shoppers' attention Monday morning along Watertown's busy Arsenal Street. A giant balloon showed a bruised and wounded pig confined to a tiny metal crate, and two activists held a sign reading, “Walmart tortures pigs” on the grassy median in front of Watertown's Walmart store.

Fort Drum civilian worker furloughs begin

Jul 9, 2013
Joanna Richards/WRVO

Civilian employee furloughs start at Fort Drum this week, as part of the federal budget cuts known as sequestration. Non-uniformed workers face one mandatory unpaid day off each week for 11 weeks. About 1,800 workers – and many services on post – are affected.

Uniformed members of the military are exempt from the furloughs, but that doesn't mean they won't be affected by them.


Interest rates double today for any students applying for the federal government's subsidized Stafford loans, after Congress failed to agree on a deal to lower interest rates.

Students at Onondaga Community College take out $21 million in loans every year to help pay for their education. Financial Aid Director Kate Bellefeuille says some potential students at OCC will be affected by the higher rates, which are jumping from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent.

Joanna Richards/WRVO

When the Army announced earlier this week that Fort Drum would lose 1,500 soldiers as part of a plan to reduce troops across the force, north country community leaders started trying to figure out what the impact would be.

They seem to agree that Fort Drum escaped this round of personnel cuts relatively unscathed.

A behind-the-scenes look at Fort Drum soldier training

Jun 27, 2013
Joanna Richards/WRVO

In the communities surrounding Fort Drum, soldiers in uniform are a common sight: they're in the grocery store with their families, standing in line at the post office, or having a beer with friends after work. But for many of the area's civilians, what soldiers do on post remains something of a mystery. An annual event at Fort Drum aims to fix that.

Fort Drum to lose 1,500 troops under Army plan

Jun 25, 2013
NCPR File Photo

The Army announced Tuesday that Fort Drum will lose about 1,500 soldiers over the next four years as part of an overall reduction in troops across the Army. 

The Army had said the post could lose as many as 8,000 soldiers – or gain as many as 3,000 – under the planned troop reduction and reorganization as the Afghanistan war winds down.

Democratic Congressman Bill Owens, of Plattsburgh, said the news of the 1,500-soldier loss gave him a sense of relief, since the cuts could have been much deeper.

Old coal plant on Fort Drum reopens as biomass facility

Jun 5, 2013
Joanna Richards / WRVO

A once-idled coal plant on Fort Drum has been given new life. ReEnergy Black River is creating dozens of new jobs in the North Country – while maintaining a focus on the environment.

State and local officials gathered recently at the facility to celebrate its grand opening.

Over the past year and a half, New York-based company ReEnergy Holdings has retrofitted the plant on Fort Drum to burn biomass instead of coal. Its primary fuel will be wood chips, created from the waste of the nearby logging industry on the Tug Hill Plateau and southwestern Adirondacks.

Matt Richmond/Innovation Trail

The City of Elmira is just seven miles from the Pennsylvania border. And for four years, the natural gas boom in Pennsylvania’s Northern Tier crossed over the border and boosted Elmira’s economy. But that boom has slowed down.

Joanna Richards / WRVO

About 200 community members turned up in a school auditorium in Watertown Thursday night in a showing of regional support for Fort Drum. The event was billed as a “listening session” for the Army, to inform a process of personnel cutbacks and reorganization currently affecting military installations around the country.  

Maffei marks 100 days back in office by talking jobs

Apr 16, 2013
Ryan Delaney / WRVO

Central New York's congressman has marked his first 100 days back in office by laying out a blueprint for jobs and the economy.

governorandrewcuomo / Flickr

Gov. Andrew Cuomo laid out an ambitious agenda around economic growth, innovation and clean energy in his proposed 2013-2014 Executive Budget.

Ryan Delaney / WRVO

New York state is poised to become one of the nation's leading economic beneficiaries of a burgeoning domestic drone industry, according to a new report from an industry trade group.

The New York State Assembly voted to raise the state’s minimum wage to $9 an hour, but the measure is stalled in the state Senate.

U.S. Army

The federal government's across-the-board spending cuts known as the sequester are set to kick in Friday, barring an agreement between Congress and the president. That means a big impact for defense spending, including for Fort Drum, an important regional economic driver.  

Joanna Richards

Many 16-year-olds might dream about starting their own business. But it takes a special kind of teenager to turn an operation launched in his parents' basement into a six-figure profit earner in just four years. After succeeding wildly with his web development and design company, North Shore Solutions, Clarkson University junior Matthew Turcotte, now age 20, is embarking on his second venture: commercial real estate.

Area Congressmen react to the State of the Union

Feb 13, 2013
Office of Cong. Dan Maffei

While there were many issues President Barack Obama talked about during last night’s State of the Union address, two in particular, the economy and gun control, were of interest of members of Congress representing upstate New York.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand has introduced a bill intended to boost high-tech manufacturing. The Democrat from New York visited the Harper International company outside Buffalo to discuss the Made in America Manufacturing Act, which is her first bill to go before the new Congress.

Joanna Richards

Until recently, the only way to drive between Route 11 and Interstate 81 near Fort Drum was a two-lane road, Route 342. As the Army base grew, local businesses flocked there to serve the increasing traffic. But the state built an $87 million bypass to ease traffic and give military vehicles a direct route to Fort Drum’s main gate. I-781, as it’s known, opened last December. Local shop owners have had mixed reactions to the new road.

The Regional Economic Development Councils have been a cornerstone of Governor Andrew Cuomo's plan to revitalize the state's economy. In his budget address Tuesday, Cuomo proposed a third round of state funding for the regional councils totaling $210 million.