The Economic Development Alliance Needs To Stop Wasting Money And Time

Greater cohesion among those doing economic development in Chautauqua County is certainly needed.

There is a great deal of logic County Executive George Borrello’s stated goal of creating an economic development alliance that has all of the required players meeting on a regular basis, sharing information and pooling the county’s total limited development resources into areas that will help the most. The county, as a whole, is not well served by having a dozen or so public and private organizations working on their own economic development projects if the organizations are stepping on each others toes while competing for the same projects or competing for the same projects while other development leads are turned away or go unanswered. It also makes sense to create a development strategy in which new additions build upon themselves so that Chautauqua County again becomes known as the home of something as Jamestown was once the nation’s furniture capital.

Perhaps it is because the vision makes sense that we are a bit disappointed at the slow pace with which the economic development alliance is proceeding. The idea was one of the centerpieces of Borrello’s campaign for county executive, yet we are halfway through his term and still slowly putting the pieces in place. By the time there is anything concrete, Borrello could well be a state Senator rather than creating his economic development vision.

The plan, developed by Camoin Associates, was released last week by county officials and advocates for creation of a new public-private organization with a board of between 20 and 27 members, led by a public sector representative and a private sector representative acting as the organization’s co-chairs. The organization would have one full-time employee initially with the possibility of several full-time employees in the future. The first-year budget would be between $120,000 and $150,000 while looking for three-year funding commitments from Chautauqua County, member contributions and in-kind contributions and services. This new organization could be formed as early as this year and spend the summer and fall months developing a countywide economic development strategy in anticipation developing initiatives and programs for 2020.

There aren’t, frankly, that many people and organizations involved in economic development activities. The planning process that resulted in last week’s Chautauqua County Economic Development Organizational Plan seems unnecessary. We know who needs to be at the table. All of those people want to be part of creating a better future for the groups they represent. Spending money on a “plan” filled with the usual strategic planning gobbledegook that, essentially, states the county needs to spend another two months creating the actual plan for an economic development strategy seems like a waste of both money and an even more precious resource — time.

Creating the economic development alliance comes from a desire to hit more economic development “home runs.” We can’t hit home runs while we’re standing in the batters’ box.