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Chautauqua County Partnership For Economic Growth

Every month I will be communicating with the public about all of the great things going on throughout Chautauqua County as they relate to economic development. This could include a discussion about specific projects of public interest that are underway or have been completed, where they are at, and if completed, how they are performing. It could also involve a discussion about initiatives being undertaken at various agencies or at the County level, including, but not limited to, the County of Chautauqua Industrial Development Agency, the Chautauqua County Partnership for Economic Growth, Chautauqua County Department of Planning & Development, Chautauqua County Land Bank Corporation, the Workforce Development Board, the Chautauqua County Visitors Bureau, educational institutions, or at any one of the many agencies whose mission makes them a critical partner in economic development across the County.

In 2018, Chautauqua County embarked upon a two-phased economic development planning process with the assistance of a nationally recognized consulting firm, Camoin Associates. The primary goal of this process was to work with public and private stakeholders from across the county to identify a cohesive and comprehensive strategy, and as importantly, a collaborative mechanism for its implementation. Our work with stakeholders throughout Chautauqua County revealed that there was strong interest in collaborating to better position the county for continued economic success.

Phase I of the process was geared toward creating a Chautauqua County Economic Development Organizational Plan, which ultimately led to the formation of a project-based, private/public economic development “collaborative” that encourages county-wide economic development stakeholders to work together to develop and implement a county-wide Economic Development Strategy (Phase II). This collaborative, known as the Chautauqua County Partnership for Economic Growth, was launched in 2019 under the umbrella of the Chautauqua Region Economic Development Corporation (CREDC).

Chautauqua County’s numerous assets, including a supreme quality of life, decent infrastructure, a strong tourism industry, numerous opportunities for skilled workers, a low cost of living, and many others, provide the necessary foundation for growth in the coming years. The energy and interest in overcoming challenges and seizing upon opportunities demonstrates that Chautauqua County has the will to work together to be more effective as compared to working in individual silos. It is our belief that coalescing and forming a robust county-wide partnership will result in a stronger economic development strategy, increased efficiencies and effectiveness of program development and implementation, and optimization of financial and human resources.

The partnership consists of a Board, a private sector Advisory Council, and five individual working groups consisting of key stakeholders from throughout the county in the areas of Business Development; Community Development; Workforce Development, Housing Development, and Tourism/Destination Development. Each of these groups is working together to define what their key challenges and opportunities are, and what initiatives/projects need to be undertaken to either take advantage of assets or address problems.

Phase II resulted in the creation of a County-wide Economic Development Strategic Plan that contains high-level concepts for change and a clear vision for transformative projects and equitable opportunities to be pursued, with specific tactics, projects, programs, services, and policies to be updated or initiated. Moreover, it promotes a county-wide outlook that supports substantial initiatives to incrementally transform Chautauqua County’s economic standing in Western New York and across the State.

The strategy was created to:

¯ Align with and contribute toward the goals of increasing levels of per-capita income, private capital investment, population, and job growth;

¯ Promote an equitable quality of life for county residents, with vibrant downtowns and healthy neighborhoods having affordable, diverse options for housing and accessible amenities;

¯ Help create an environment where entrepreneurs of diverse backgrounds and incomes can start and grow businesses across all industry sectors;

¯ Improve the business climate, characterized on the frontline by streamlined processes and business-friendly efforts of municipal officials in all jurisdictions;

¯ Contribute to the fiscal sustainability of the County – either in terms of tax revenue generated as a result of economic growth, program income, and dedicated funding streams, and/or in a decreasing the need for public spending, particularly on social services;

¯ Support efforts of public education and workforce development professionals to help retain graduates and attract talent to become permanent residents and fill local jobs;

¯ Fill gaps in local economic development programming and target resources in order to support the growth and development of each jurisdiction within the County;

¯ Leverage regional collaboration and State resources to support County services and initiatives;

¯ Complement the County’s comprehensive plan and target resources to improve infrastructure and community development priorities, especially shovel-ready sites; and

¯ Produce right-sized performance metrics to stay on track and implement management control and accountability measures for maximum impact.

Across individual and group meetings, there is an enthusiasm to refine economic development delivery services in Chautauqua County in a method that emphasizes the best of what is currently underway, while eliminating duplication of services and adapting other programs to meet the needs of today. The Economic Development Strategic Plan is a call to action for the wide range of economic development partners in the county. The challenges loom large; however, this is an opportunity for the Partnership and its stakeholders to exhibit the best of what the county has to offer and make the case for why investment is crucial from state, federal, and foundation partners.

The Partnership Board has approved 16 priority projects as part of the 2021 Work Plan. Staff and partners will now work to further develop these projects, and secure support and funding to implement them. Among these projects are:

¯ Site and Infrastructure Development Program – Identify, control, prepare, and market development-ready sites;

¯ Chadakoin River Activation and Development Initiative – Create amenities and commercial development opportunities along the Chadakoin River to increase visitation and spending in downtown Jamestown;

¯ NRG Reuse Alternatives and Feasibility Study – Develop reuse concepts, gauge their feasibility and benefits to the community, and understand development constraints and opportunities;

¯ Agricultural Development and Enhancement Strategy – Devise strategies to increase the economic viability of the agricultural industry, encourage farmland protection, and increase public interest and awareness of local agriculture;

¯ Talent Attraction and Retention Initiative – Develop a cohesive recruitment and retention branding and marketing initiative to attract and retain talent to live, work, and start up new businesses in the county;

¯ Workplace Culture Improvement as a Recruitment/Retention Strategy – This initiative is intended to assist businesses in competing for talent by concentrating on their economic, social, and environmental practices;

¯ Consolidated Code Administration and Enforcement Feasibility Study – This initiative will explore whether there is better and more efficient way to deliver code enforcement services, and what that might look like;

¯ Dunkirk Downtown Revitalization Initiative – This effort focuses on idenfiting, developing, gauging feasibility, packaging, and presenting a series of cohesive projects for funding through the New York State Downtown Revitalization Initiative (DRI) process, aimed at improving and activating Dunkirk’s downtown and waterfront;

¯ Trail Development – Complete trail segments and develop more trails that are consistent with the Chautauqua County Greenway Plan, which will ultimately create more opportunities for outdoor recreation and active living;

¯ Village of Mayville Strategic Waterfront Activation Framework – Develop a conceptual plan and strategy for activating the Mayville waterfront in proximity to the historic Train Depot; and

¯ Tourism Transportation Shuttle – Working with CARTS, Chautauqua Institution, and other stakeholders to create dedicated shuttle service to connect tourism destinations, tourism-related businesses, and traveler accommodations throughout the County;

Lastly, I would like to thank our numerous partners, including municipalities, development organizations and agencies, business leaders, educational institutions, and foundations. Our work would not be possible without our dedicated Board and Advisory Council members, and our staff, led by Nathan Aldrich. I also wish to recognize our premier sponsoring partners – the Northern Chautauqua Community Foundation (NCCF) and the Gebbie Foundation.

For more information about the Partnership for Economic Growth, visit chqpartnership.org.

Mark Geise is deputy county executive for economic development/CCIDA CEO.

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