Both cities’ downtowns were identified in a survey of about 90 residents, elected officials and local business owners as key places to improve in the county’s quest to attract younger people.

Once the center of the upstate New York leather industry, the area has in recent decades struggled to retain residents and businesses despite the comparatively low costs of living. The number of people directly and indirectly employed locally in the leather trades has dropped from 10,000 to 400 since 1970, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

Johnstown, Gloversville corridor: downtown Gloversville New York

A view of downtown area on Thursday, June 9, 2016, in Gloversville, N.Y. (Paul Buckowski / Times Union)

Renovations to both downtown areas will require “local officials to look at how their infrastructure is arranged,” said Fulton County Administrative Officer Jon Stead. The downtown corridors of both towns, he said, were designed in the heyday of manufacturing and are now in many ways ill-equipped to accommodate the retail centers and business incubators that the county is trying to attract.

“We’re trying to reorganize the downtowns for the modern era,” he said, noting downtown Saratoga Springs as an ideal balance between business, retail, parking and promenade space.

The downtown focus is one part of the Vision 2026 and Jump Start Fulton County plans through which officials hope to market Fulton County as a cheaper alternative to the Capital Region.

“Upstate New York is a beautiful place to explore and enjoy, but in many areas the cost of living can be too high,” Jim Mraz, Fulton County planning director, said in August. “In Fulton County, that’s not the case, and that’s something we’re proud of.”

To bring more people in, Stead said, the county must also diversify its housing options for both millennials and older people — an issue that was routinely noted in the recent community survey. Officials are hoping to attract private investment to create equitable housing for both seniors and young workers.

“We have a lot of young people that might be interested” in relocating to Fulton County, which is close enough to commute to the Capital Region, Stead said. “But finding new homes and housing that’s affordable for that type of populace seems to be a challenge right now.”

The median value of a Fulton County home from 2011-2015 was $108,000, compared to $208,000 in Albany County, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The average monthly rents over the same period were $711 and $919, respectively.

Stead said the county is in the process of extending water and sewer lines to areas that are ideal for housing and retail development.

Economic development officials are also leaning heavily on attracting new businesses to a business park that inhabits the former Tryon Detention Center, on the borders of Perth and Johnstown. Vireo Health is using the park to grow medical marijuana but is so far the only occupant at the sprawling 515-acre site.

rdownen@timesunion.com • 518-454-5018 • @RobertDownenTU