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St. Lawrence County's large size presents unique challenges

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CNY/NNY/S. Tier: St. Lawrence County's large size presents unique challenges
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It's the largest county in New York, and also one of the poorest. With just over 100,000 people, Saint Lawrence County relies on tourism and small businesses to survive. Barry Wygel takes a look at some of the unique challenges the county faces.

ST. LAWRENCE COUNTY, N.Y. -- It's a two hour drive from corner to corner, and it's the largest and one of the most diverse counties in the state.

"However, only 111,000 people. So you can see we have a lot of geography, few people, people sparsely located," said Karen St. Hilaire, St. Lawrence County administrator.

This presents a unique challenge that isn't faced anywhere else in the state.

"It takes a lot of coordination, which I think is one of the biggest issues we face, coordination, communication, and how do you bring people together when you have a lot of needs," said Hilaire.

St. Lawrence County also ranks consistently as one of the poorest counties in the state.

"When you don't get a lot of services located in one area. It's hard to get a lot of business and economic activity going in one particular area," said Hilaire.

While many counties have an economic and cultural center, St. Lawrence County does not. But having smaller towns isn't always a bad thing.

"Each has its own unique flavor. Some are very rustic, some are more metropolitan, some are more collegiate. So we really have flavors for everybody," said Pat McKeown, executive director of the St. Lawrence County Chamber of Commerce.

Those flavors attract a wide variety of tourists to the county, which is a major economic engine.

Much of St. Lawrence County's tourism comes from its bodies of water, whether it's fishers or boaters. Right here in Waddington, on the Canadian border, it's known as the carp capital of the world.

"We have 200 lakes, rivers and ponds, we have thousands of acres of forest. So people who are looking for that experience of being out in nature are not going to find it better than they are here," said Hilaire.

St. Lawrence County is trying to rev up its economic engine by increasing tourism to all areas of the county.

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