Chautauqua County spends so much time scrambling to keep what it has that nothing seems to change.
By perpetually reacting to companies such as NRG or ConAgra leaving or filling the vacancies created when a large employer leaves, the county is never able to pull itself out of its downward spiral of economic disinvestment and population losses. For every bit of good economic news, two or three pieces of bad news follow.
That's why County Executive Vince Horrigan's economic development plan outlined in last week's State of the County address is such a breath of fresh air.
Horrigan touts projects of progress, including the North County Water District, low-cost energy sources and the Chautauqua Lake sewer system that are needed both for better quality of life for county residents and to provide less costly and more reliable infrastructure for business. Horrigan also touts the importance of supporting training programs with grant funding to retrain the county's workforce, strengthening career focuses for young adults in education and internship programs, exploring state pilot programs to further streamling the welfare to work program and putting more people to work when there are jobs for them.
The proactive approach he preaches is one we hope generates results. Among the high points are:
Developing stronger relationships with out-of-county business owners so county officials can better keep the county competitive economically and avoid surprise announcements like ConAgra's.
Identify the top 100 companies poised for growth and focus economic development efforts on attracting them to the county.
Focus recruitment efforts through business cluster strategies. Among the possibilities are attracting businesses related to companies that are already here, like Cummins or MRC-SKF, allowing businesses to consolidate supply lines and adding jobs to the county.
Attract agri-business, technology, health care and advanced manufacturing to START-UP NY sites in Fredonia and Jamestown. Focusing search efforts for START-UP NY is a better idea than simply waiting for businesses to take advantage of the program.
Market shovel-ready air parks and the county's development site near Ripley.
Increase the county's small business development efforts, hopefully in areas that are related to larger companies that are coming in.
We hear much from the state about belt-tightening and cutting costs required by local governments. Cutting extraneous spending is necessary, not as an end goal but as a means to an end. By cutting taxes and government red tape, Chautauqua County puts itself in position to use Horrigan's blueprint and grow.
That would be a welcome change.