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One year on, CAEDC uses strategic plan to its fullest

The following appeared in the April edition of the Cumberland Valley Business Journal.

-By Jonathan Bowser, CAEDC CEO

It seems so long ago, but in December 2015 the CAEDC Board of Directors and Cumberland County Commissioners approved the Economic Development Component of the Cumberland County Comprehensive Plan.

The adopted plan outlined CAEDC’s mission, vision, core values, and services. In addition, it also laid out our guiding principles for economic development projects, and clearly defined our corporate strategic focus areas. One key element to the plan were corporate goals that we wanted to achieve once the plan was adopted.

These three key goals included:

• Increase the commercial and industrial tax base

• Increase the median income and opportunities for the broadest array of residents

• Maintain a diversified industry base

In the Commonwealth, local and county governments and local school districts rely on real estate taxes to operate. CAEDC’s mission is to provide a high quality of life for its residents. Lessening the tax burden on residents through the development of commercial and industrial projects is a key element in doing so.

Another key goal for CAEDC and the County is to provide family-sustaining jobs throughout our community. By providing family sustaining jobs, less residents are reliant on public subsidies to live, which leads to increased quality of life and thriving communities. Last, we wanted to ensure that we were not concentrated in one or two major industries in the county. This goal centers around our efforts to attract, retain and expand businesses in our six key industries, as defined within the plan.

In efforts to focus on our activities, the plan calls for six strategic focus areas to include:

• Business Attraction

• Business Retention & Expansion

• Redevelopment & Reuse

• Funding & Financing

• Visitor Growth

• Stakeholder Engagement

To minimize the risk of industry concentration, CAEDC and the County agreed to focus on six major industry sectors. Some of these industry sectors were to be a passive focus of the organization and county and some were to be targeted industries for business attraction and expansion.

Those six industry clusters included:

• Tourism

• Agribusiness

• Transportation and Warehousing

• Healthcare

• Manufacturing

• Professional Services

To ensure we were staying true to our plan and it just did not become another document placed on the shelf, we conducted a strategic plan that is an insert with the Comprehensive Plan. These strategies outlined how we plan to achieve the plan’s goals and objectives, and provided us a platform to benchmark and measure performance.

Since inception of this plan in December 2015, CAEDC has been laser focused on staying “true” to the plan. As it relates to business attraction, CAEDC established a marketing campaign to attract food processing facilities to the area. While CAEDC has not landed a food processor to date, we have brought greater awareness to the opportunities in and outside of market.

In a low unemployment environment, we have focused most of our efforts on business retention and expansion. In 2016, CAEDC was engaged in 17 projects that yielded $153 million in capital investment and over 1200 jobs retained and/or created. All of these projects were related to our industry clusters as identified in the plan.

To address the additional need of focus on redevelopment and reuse, CAEDC partnered with the Cumberland County Housing and Redevelopment Authorities to create the Real Estate Collaborative. This new entity is a wholly-owned subsidiary of CAEDC that’s mission is to focus on the development or redevelopment of vacant, underutilized, or blighted sites throughout the county, with the intent to make these sites viable properties that generate taxes, capital investment and create jobs.

In 2016, CAEDC conducted a Destination Sales Analysis as a way to identify opportunities to grow our tourism visitation. The sales analysis recommended that CAEDC focus on building and enhancing its product offerings as a destination. As a result, CAEDC is currently conducting a sports complex feasibility, commenced a soft and asset development strategy to increase our asset offerings in the market, and focus our sales efforts on small meetings, groups and conferences.

Lastly, the plan calls for increased stakeholder engagement. Like politics, economic development is local. Meaning we had to increase our engagement in a meaningful way with our key stakeholders to move the needle and see increased economic development efforts and projects throughout the region. We do this in the way of marketing, communications, our investor program, projects, and strategic partnerships.

Though not called out as a major industry cluster, military is also a key industry in our economy. The three installations in our footprint yield over 11,000 jobs and $1 billion in economic impact. In 2016, CAEDC conducted a Military Strategic Positioning Plan, as an effort to ensure we retain and grow the military activity in the county. Military families and retirees are vital to our economy and a major part of our fabric and DNA as a community.

As we continue to press ahead with the execution of the county’s plan for economic growth, we would like to thank our County Commissioners, board of directors, staff, stakeholders and investors for your continued support in making Cumberland County the fastest growing county in the Commonwealth and a great place to live, work and visit!

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