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Outlining the new REC

This article appeared on the Cumberland Valley Business Journal.

In 2015, Cumberland Area Economic Development Corporation (CAEDC) and the Cumberland County Commissioners approved the county’s comprehensive plan for economic development and CAEDC’s Strategic Plan for the next five years. The areas of focus for the plan include; business attraction, business retention, redevelopment and reuse, visitor growth and stakeholder engagement. CAEDC’s plan will focus on the following key industry clusters: agribusiness (food processing), tourism, healthcare and social assistance, manufacturing, distribution and warehousing, and professional services. In recent years, CAEDC and Cumberland County have announced significant new job creation and capital investment numbers from new businesses entering the county. Those companies include; Goodman Bircher, Hillwood Properties, Lindt Chocolate, Deloitte, Pinnacle Healthcare, and thredUP. While these economic development announcements were great for the county and the region in terms of creating new jobs and investment, it also placed a strain on our existing employers and workforce.

As a result of the dilemma in strained workforce and available sites, CAEDC’s business attraction strategy shifted with the economic realities. After months of analysis, CAEDC embraced an opportunity in the marketplace. One thing that became increasingly apparent to staff, was the need to refocus on infill development within our communities, where there is housing, infrastructure, services and access to public transit. With support from the Cumberland County Commissioners and CAEDC Board of Directors, CAEDC created a new subsidiary organization called the Real Estate Collaborative, LLC (also known as REC).

Real Estate Collaborative (REC), LLC will operate as a subsidiary of CAEDC with a purpose of enhancing CAEDC’s mission to increase job creation, capital investment, and commercial and industrial tax base in Cumberland County, as a result of CAEDC’s and Cumberland County’s Comprehensive and Strategic Plan for Economic Development.

The REC will do the following:

Implement strategies outlined in CAEDC Strategic Plan

Redevelopment and/or reuse of existing industrial, commercial and public building sites, and Mixed-Use Development that fit within CAEDC’s Targeted Industry Clusters

Identify and engage partners (public and private) for development and property representation

Criteria for a REC project will include the following:

Property is underutilized, vacant or brownfield

Ownership/Property representative is engaged and willing to partner with REC

Municipality is responsive to potential site/building revitalization

Revitalized use is relevant to Targeted Industry Clusters as defined in CAEDC strategic plan

Preferably in Opportunity Areas as stated in County Comp Plan

REC has a direct Strategic Fit to CAEDC’s Comp and Strategic Plan as follows:

Focus Areas: Business Attraction, Redevelopment & Reuse

Business Attraction & Redevelopment and Reuse Strategies:

o Develop and execute a sites program

o Market the destination to attract businesses

Identified Industry Clusters: Tourism, Agribusiness, Transportation & Warehousing, Health Care & Social Services, Manufacturing, Professional Services

Benefits of the REC to Cumberland County:

Reuse and repurpose of existing public, commercial and industrial real estate sites

Promotes infill development in our core communities

Transitions underperforming sites into performing assets for the county

Attracts targeted tourism and economic development assets to the county and region

Continues to increase the county’s commercial and industrial tax base

New job creation

Collaborative approach to real estate and economic development in the county


Initial capital investment of the REC is a $150,000 financial commitment of CAEDC’s economic development budget.

REC projects will be funded through public and private partnerships and capital.

Access to local, state and federal economic development programs and tools.

Profits of the REC will be reinvested back into the REC for future projects and also support ongoing CAEDC operations to deliver economic development services to the community.

Governance Structure:

CAEDC’s Board of Directors will appoint a five member Managing Group that will make decisions and assist in overseeing REC projects and finances.

This five member managing group will consist of three CAEDC board members, a member from the Cumberland County Housing & Redevelopment Authority and a member at-large.

Key staff members of the REC will include; Jonathan Bowser, CEO and Mary Kuna, Economic Development Manager

This REC will function to reduce risk and capital of private developers, as it relates to the redevelopment, reuse and repurpose of existing sites. The “Collaborative”, is just that. We plan to partner with brokers, engineers, contractors, architects, municipalities, and developers on complex projects that otherwise would sit underutilized for several years and become an eyesore in our communities. The REC plans to leverage public funds into private development projects to proactively attract new business development. As Economic Development Organizations (EDOs) throughout the country continue to position themselves for the future, CAEDC has positioned itself to play a more vital and proactive role in the economic development outcomes of our community through this new initiative, while creating new revenue streams for the organization to grow.

As a vibrant community we cannot become complacent. We have to continue to stay ahead of the curve, continually recreate ourselves as a community, adjust quickly to change and plan for the future we want to leave for our children. We want to see more vibrant communities that can attract millennials, with jobs, entertainment, recreation and quality educational institutions. CAEDC has a great opportunity to play a larger role in shaping our community and we see the REC as one key strategy in accomplishing the goals set forth by our Board of Commissioners, Board of Directors and staff.

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