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Letter from the CEO: Have faith in local gov’t amid national debate

In this Presidential season, most of the attention has been focused on our Presidential race with Donald Trump and Hilary Clinton leading the way. To say it lightly, there has been a lot of excitement and emotion with this current political cycle with several key issues at stake such as: affordable healthcare, Supreme Court Justice vacancies, global trade deals, income inequality, social injustices, national security and our military presence globally, immigration, the US deficit, and several other important issues and debates within our country.

Each Presidential candidate has his or her vision for the future of our country and how we best position ourselves in this ever-changing global economy and political environment. These races are very important and every candidate’s platform is based on job creation, raising the wages of the middle class, infrastructure, skilled workforce, innovation, foreign trade policies, how regulation and healthcare policies help or hurt (depending on your position) our economy, and job creators ability to create jobs in today’s national politics.

Despite these national policies and platforms from candidates, I personally weigh that the majority of economic development is a local problem, with local solutions, and local people. Do not get me wrong, these national issues are extremely important, but just as people often say “politics is local”, I would also argue so is economic development.

It is our local elected officials and staff (municipal, county, and state) that impact our communities the most and help shape the future development and quality of life in our communities. It is are leaders at the local level that bear the majority of accountability and responsibility for our roads, human services, public safety, parks and recreation, school systems, and economic development. In most of our surrounding states, the majority of the decision making is done at the county government level. Here in Pennsylvania, it is truly a shared responsibility between our municipalities for basic day-to-day services, our county government for broader services such as human services and comprehensive planning, and state government that governs and legislates.

All three levels of local government (municipal, county and state) play an important role in economic development. At the local level, officials handle planning, zoning, ordinances, local real estate tax, school systems, water and sewer, infrastructure, etc. At the county level, officials typically designate a county government office to set policy and execute on economic development, or partner with a non-profit organization such as Cumberland Area Economic Development Corporation (CAEDC) for economic development services to the local municipalities.

Some counties such as Cumberland, create revolving loan programs, marketing strategies and provide technical assistance to businesses that want to do business in their county. The State government also plays a pivotal role in economic development with having an attractive corporate net income tax to businesses and individuals, limited regulation from state agencies, economic development incentives, grants, and low-interest financing, transportation (roads, airports/international airports, rail, and ports), competitive and desirable costs of living, and an overall low tax structure that is conducive to business.

So as we enter into a very exciting, interesting, and important election cycle, let’s continue to pay close attention to our local elected officials. Our Chambers of Commerce and other civic and political organizations are hosting several forums that will give you access to have your questions answered and voice heard. This edition of the Cumberland Valley Business Journal will give you a good perspective into each of the candidates’ vision for our communities and state. I encourage you all to get to meet them, ask questions, ask them questions about your business, ask them what they plan to do for local businesses to help retain and grow. These are all important questions that the candidates we elect in November will help shape, influence, and most importantly, vote for on our behalf.

As part of CAEDC’s mission to lead economic development in Cumberland County, we focus our Cumberland Valley Alliance investor events to be a vehicle for our elected officials to discuss local and national issues and policies that impact businesses located in the Cumberland Valley. We use these forums as a mechanism to “bridge the gap” between business and government. This is our small way of impacting public policy through forum-style discussions in attempt to move our community forward in a positive way, retain and create jobs, and maintain a desirable quality of life for our families, neighbors and friends.

The decisions that are made by our elected officials today will impact our lives for generations to come, so let’s all join in, vote and be part of the solution.

-Jonathan Bowser

Read Jonathan’s monthly editorial piece in the Cumberland Valley Business Journal.

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