CEDC Charting a Path for Prosperity
Corporation produces strategic plan for Columbia County
F. Michael Tucker, President & CEO
Columbia Economic Development Corporation
Over the past year, Columbia Economic Development Corporation has engaged stakeholders from business, government, education and the nonprofit sectors, together with county residents, to facilitate an inclusive conversation on the future of economic growth in Columbia County.
After listening to ideas from our members, partners, stakeholders and the greater community, and after conducting demographic research and reviewing “best practices,” CEDC has produced a strategic plan that provides a road map for future prosperity and sustainable economic growth in Columbia County.
Columbia County’s competitive advantages are rooted in many traditional economic activities like agribusiness, arts, recreation and tourism. However, it is important to integrate these key sectors with a comprehensive strategy to bring economic growth in the context of a rapidly changing, globally competitive, tech-driven, 21st century landscape.
With this in mind, we started by asking the community four questions: Where are we now? Where are we headed? Where do we want to be? How do we get there?
The answers we received led us to identify four pillars that will guide our economic development initiatives and provide strategic context for all of the policymakers, organizations, businesses and residents that are working together in pursuit of a better future.
Entrepreneurship and innovation
Small businesses are the lifeblood of our economy and the biggest driver of job creation. CEDC will expand its support for small businesses by developing new resources and services to help them thrive and continuing to seek new opportunities to aid business growth in Columbia County.
CEDC’s primary infrastructure focus involves active engagement in a collaborative countywide effort to expand broadband access. Columbia County is suffering from some of the highest number of households in New York state without high-speed internet access. Catching up and building the required infrastructure to deliver broadband access to our residents, businesses and schools is crucial for competitiveness in the modern world.
Quality of Life and Sustainability
Increasing economic prosperity is about more than just bringing jobs and wealth, it is about the well-being of our communities. Economic development is a team effort and the objectives in this pillar outline a series of steps designed to foster community relationships, promote smart and balanced growth and raise quality of life.
Workforce and Education
As labor demand is shifting to higher skilled jobs, we need to make sure our local schools are equipped to prepare the next generation of workers. This is particularly important in our manufacturing and technology cluster. Businesses often raise concerns about a mismatch between their needs and the skills of the workforce. By identifying the gaps in the workforce and working with educational institutions to increase the number of graduates ready to ill those gaps, our economy can be strengthened for decades to come.
Each of these pillars is interrelated and none of the objectives set out within them can be accomplished without large-scale buy-in and participation from our community. Improving the state of the economy — whether at the county, regional, state or even national level — is a process that involves a lot of hard work from a lot of people. It involves communication and collaboration.
We believe what CEDC accomplished in developing this plan was a great first step and the community engagement that was key to its creation will also be key to its execution.
In the coming months and years, CEDC will be working with organizations of all kinds and always welcoming public input to improve our efforts in serving the residents of Columbia County and the cohesion of the strategic efforts of organizations countywide.
By strengthening the relationships between businesses, governments, nonprofit organizations and education, we expect to become greater than the sum of our parts and put the transformational ideas that led to the strategic plan into practice.
As we strengthen cooperative development within Columbia County, we also seek to integrate better with the Capital Region and the strategies developed in recent years through the Regional Economic Development Council process. Round VI is currently underway and application deadlines are approaching quickly, so CEDC is working with businesses and organizations in our county to better position their innovative projects to compete for funding. Our strategic plan was intentional in its alignment with many of the strategies being implemented in the Capital Region.
Columbia County has had successes in the past during the REDC awards process. For example: The $1.3 million awarded to renovate and restore the Hudson Opera House last year and $1 million awarded to the Hudson Valley Creamery, LLC, for business expansion.
It has been a true pleasure for CEDC to work with the Columbia County Board of Supervisors, our federal, state and local elected officials and community partners and county residents. They have been tremendous in their eagerness to work together to continue to strengthen the county’s economic vitality and to insure that all residents are able to realize the benefits of good jobs and an ever enhanced quality of life for our residents.
CG BUSINESS QUARTERLY – Summer 2016