By JOHN "JAY"?WARREN
Chautauqua County Executive Vince Horrigan has his hands full. In his recent State of the County address, he highlighted the progress that Chautauqua County has made in recent years, while outlining the economic and social realities the county faces.
The economic struggles of the county were dramatically brought home to the region immediately before his address with ConAgra's announcement it is closing its Carriage House facilities in Fredonia and Dunkirk. The loss of 450 jobs has a multiplier effect on the many businesses and jobs in the area that support those facilities. The Local Economic Development Committee strongly endorses calls for ConAgra to do its share in helping Fredonia and Dunkirk to prepare the Carriage House sites for resale.
Still, it is clear that it is the responsibility of all citizens to work together to sustain the lifeblood of the region. The county executive's plan is based on the concept that to succeed we must grow. His Operation Jump-Start is a multi-step plan that is based in part on the importance of a public-private partnership approach to economic development. It deserves our support.
Here's an outline of the county executive's economic development plan and some ways in which existing initiatives, as well as new ones, can contribute by working together:
1. Grow efficiency in county government service delivery and public-private partnerships.
The Local Economic Development Committee of the Northern Chautauqua Community Foundation is a group of private-sector leaders prepared to participate in this effort.
We must coordinate and strengthen countywide coalitions to develop action that bring results. The Northern Chautauqua Community Foundation's LED Committee is committed to a three-legged stool approach to local economic development the private sector, public sector, and education; all working together. We will continue to strengthen and expand our relationships with the public, education and nongovernmental sectors. The goal of private sector leadership is to serve as the catalyst generating policy to enhance economic development in the region.
2. Grow our self-sufficient and skilled workforce with education/ business participation.
Chautauqua County employers, public schools, SUNY Fredonia, Jamestown Community College and county agencies established the Education Coalition. The coalition's focus is the need to provide technical and scientific training to prepare students for today's and tomorrow's employment opportunities.
While STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) skills are increasingly needed in today's workplace, success skills are also required; skills such as building teamwork and employing strong communication. These steps are one way to meet the county executive's goal to strengthen the career focus for young adults through innovative education and internship programs.
3. Grow economic development opportunities through local and regional partnerships.
The Chadwick Bay Regional Development Corp. has provided the foundation for partnering the communities of the north county. Their work deserves applause. Their desire to be transparent and answer the significant questions of partnering communities brings promise for success.
At the same time, the village of Fredonia's budget is under assault. The closing of Carriage House will bring significant losses in revenue, including their majority share of the water/sewer rate. Subsequently, the local communities that have banded together to form a north county water district are at a cross-roads. Major decisions need to be made.
The good news is that substantive talks are under way. While these talks continue, a new tool has been made available as a way to attract new businesses and jobs called Start-Up NY. SUNY Fredonia and JCC are currently exploring this opportunity with applicants.
4. Grow and retain jobs from existing businesses (tourism, health care, manufacturing, retail, agriculture, technology, etc.).
The county executive plans to identify the top 100 companies for job growth in the county. He needs the help of more than the county's Industrial Development Agency (IDA) and Department of Planning and Economic Development. Although the county executive says he will use all available county resources to support new job creation, those resources are dwindling. There are only two planners currently employed full time in the county's Department of Planning.
A new Director of the Industrial Development Agency will replace Bill Daly. Daly has received deserved praise from County Executive Horrigan and his predecessor, Greg Edwards. The new director needs to have the resources necessary to fulfill the goal of working together to grow Chautauqua County. However, the county government should not be doing all the heavy lifting by itself on actions related to job creation and business investment. The county's private sector and community at large needs to pitch in to reach this goal. For example, in the north county, the Northern Chautauqua Community Foundation Local Economic Development has adopted a local economic development strategic plan that focuses on these priorities.
5. Grow regional demand for Chautauqua County as a yearround destination for visitors, investors, and business development.
The County Executive has tasked the IDA to lead development of a high-impact Chautauqua County marketing and promotion strategy. The plan calls for partnership from a county-wide team leadership. By leveraging existing businesses, visitors and not-for-profits, there are opportunities to recruit new investment. Chautauqua County is a strong component of the Regional Economic Development Council. We're part of the Council, and part of another group - Buffalo Niagara Enterprise.
Western New York regional growth initiatives are bearing fruit in Buffalo, where national attention is being drawn to its revitalization - and prospects for more. BNE is at the ground level for this progress in Buffalo. But BNE's area of concern is all of the eight counties, including Chautauqua. We can be part of this renaissance through close cooperation. Revitalize Dunkirk is a promising, new component. The Jamestown Renaissance Corp. is a model on which others can grow.
The Local Economic Development committee is a volunteer group of business leaders representing the northern Chautauqua municipalities within the Lake Erie watershed and bordering New York State Routes 5 and 20 from Hanover to Ripley. Since its beginning, the LEDC has developed a position of regional leadership in economic development, complementing the Northern Chautauqua Community Foundation's notable strengths in companion sectors of community development.
The Northern Chautauqua Community Foundation was incorporated in 1986 as a tax-exempt charitable organization. Since its establishment, the NCCF has distributed over $9.4 million into the community through its various grant programs. It is committed to enriching the northern Chautauqua community and encouraging local philanthropy.
Jay Warren is the chair of the Local Economic Development committee. For more information about the committee, its activities and/or opportunities to serve, call him at 679-8654. For more information about the Northern Chautauqua Community Foundation, call 366-4892 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.