Recently inaugurated Carleton College President Steve Poskanzer was the NDDC’s guest at our October Downtown Forum. The attendees not only learned about Steve’s background, they heard his insights on our downtown and our community.
Steve grew up in Cortland, NY a college town that is also the namesake of a popular apple. His father was both a college professor and a local politician and Steve said that “town and gown” issues were common topics at the family dinner table.
He wanted to be a diplomat, specifically the Assistant Secretary for African Affairs. Identifying the common career path, he studied African Politics at Princeton and then went on to Harvard Law School. He practiced law in the private sector for a number of years before moving into higher education, working 12 years in public colleges and 12 years in private colleges.
Steve has felt very welcomed by the Northfield community. He notes that welcoming new people is not something we should take for granted. In fact he believes that it can give us a competitive advantage in economic development.
There is much that is familiar to him in the Northfield and some things that are different. In Cortland, of their three major employers, they had a Smith-Corona Typewriter factory that closed, a Mack Truck factory that moved first to South Carolina and then overseas, and the college, SUNY Cortland. The loss of major employers, as well as the development of big boxes out on the highway, have greatly hurt Cortland’s downtown. Steve noted that all of the out-of-town guests for his inauguration commented on the relative vitality of Northfield’s downtown.
Steve noted that colleges create jobs and good jobs. In addition, they can be a magnet that draws people and businesses to the community.
Thoughtful and intentional efforts can increase this economic leverage, Steve suggested. He offered to work with the NDDC to better connect the college to the economy, more vigorously promote the community to the world, and, something he believes is very important, help to rebuild that connection between the college and the community that was characteristic of an earlier era.
Finally, Steve noted that sometimes a college president can help “close the deal” with a business considering relocating to a community. He said that if at all possible, he would make himself available at such critical moments.
Note: Carleton recorded President Poskanzer’s presentation at the NDDC Forum. You can watch it here on the Carleton College website.