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Plan provides guidelines in promoting, attracting businesses

This article appeared in the Sentinel and on Cumberlink.com on January 30, 2017. 

Comprehensive plans can cost tens of thousands of dollars to produce, but Cumberland County has developed them in-house with any extra costs covered by grants.

That’s not to say the county gets no outside help at all.

Though the county Planning Department staff takes up the bulk of the work, other organizations like the Cumberland County Housing & Redevelopment Authorities help with portions of the comprehensive plan.

And then there’s the Cumberland Area Economic Development Corp. CAEDC took over the entirety of the comprehensive plan’s section on business and industry.

“It was the first time another agency did the economic development part of the comprehensive plan,” said Kristen Rowe, communications manager for CAEDC. “It has really tied us a lot closer with the county and other agencies, like Housing & Redevelopment Authority.”

In 2015, CAEDC released its Economic Development Strategy, which is used in the county’s comprehensive plan. In it, CAEDC chose to focus on particular industry clusters: tourism, transportation and warehousing, health care and social assistance, manufacturing, “professional” industries and agribusiness.

“It suited what we wanted to look at,” Rowe said of agribusiness, which had been a new direction for CAEDC to take. “We wanted to look at the next step in agriculture.”

Since that release, the industry clusters have largely stayed the same, though Rowe said they update the strategy regularly.

“It’s a document that can change,” she said. “We update it and report out to our board on a quarterly basis.”


CAEDC put together its annual update on the strategy recently. In it, Rowe said the biggest update was the formation of the CAEDC subsidiary Real Estate Collaborative LLC (REC). REC is designed to help get sites ready for development and remove the barriers for development/investors in potentially difficult sites.

CAEDC also aims to continue to invest in marketing the area for business attraction efforts, link employers and educational institutions to expand employment opportunities to residents, continue to work with military installations and continue to grow funding offerings for business retention.

Rowe explained that their portion of the comprehensive plan is a long-term outlook for economic development in the county. CAEDC also looked at the county as a whole, though Rowe noted that clearly some industries are more likely to be in certain areas of the county.

“Obviously there are some areas that do better in certain industries,” she said. “For agribusiness, it would fit best in the Newville area, and the health care and professional industry is more common on the West Shore. The reuse and redevelopment (industry cluster) is more for downtowns. But this was created as a holistic approach.”


Though CAEDC changed how the county will approach economic development, the county previously split its plan to have county goals, as well as goals for the east, west and central regions.

In the county’s 2003 plan that was later updated in 2011 before CAEDC took over in 2015, the county found that it struggled with increased traffic congestion, loss of prime farmland, suburban sprawl, strip development, excessive warehouse development and loss of sense of community, based on its research as well as surveys from the public.

The eastern region of the county was more concerned with traffic, while central and west were most concerned with prime farmland loss.

Though preserving natural land was a major component − and remains a component − in the county’s comprehensive plan, it also looked at what industries were needed in each region.

The county found that, as a whole, it wanted more high-tech industrial and business parks, small-scale sites for start-up businesses, manufacturing and small business opportunities.

Regionally, the county found the eastern and western regions needed more start-up businesses and high-tech industrial parks, while the central region needed more industrial/business parks and manufacturing and processing.

The plan also says that in terms of commercial uses, the county desired more neighborhood-based conveniences, specialty stores, commercial offices, restaurants and lodging, and major shopping centers/malls. Regionally, the plan looked at more specialty stores and boutiques as well as restaurants for the eastern region, neighborhood-based convenience stores and specialty stores for the central region, and more restaurants and convenience stores for the western region.

The county’s and CAEDC’s plans, however, are essentially guidelines and not requirements for municipalities to follow. Municipalities provide input for the county’s comprehensive plan, and they can create comprehensive plans of their own, but they can make their own decisions when it comes to rezoning that could affect the land use or industries in each municipality.

So, even though the western region could be considered with farmland preservation and warehousing isn’t the top industrial need, West Pennsboro Township still has the power to rezone agricultural to industrial.

For Carlisle, it’s not so much a question of zoning as it is the space that is available to them.

“In Carlisle, we obviously want to be trying to plan for the future,” said Matt Candland, Carlisle borough manager. “For example, it’s not a place for future development, but it is a place for redevelopment. I think it’s different because boroughs have constraints that Hampden Township and South Middleton Township doesn’t have.”

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