Tuesday, September 27, 2011

More Than a Competition

Alignment, Assets, and Acceleration are three words that come to my mind when I think of economic development. We can grouse about the “Great Recession” and the substantial economic hits our region has taken over the past two decades, or we can turn our attention to the future and do something about it.

The Governor’s current Regional Economic Development Council competition is something that warrants our attention and effort. The Governor has created ten regions across the state with councils charged with developing a strategic plan to guide economic development priorities for the next five years. The regions will compete for state funding with $40 million awarded to the top four plans and the remaining $40 million divided among the other six regions.

I am honored to be a member of the Mohawk Valley Regional Economic Development Council and share the mindset of my fellow council members – we are in it to win it. But beyond the initial $200 million, the plan will guide proposals from our region for another $800 million of available state aid dollars. The real victory will be in having a cohesive plan for the entire six-county region.

I chair the vision workgroup, and that experience has reinforced the importance of alignment, assets, and acceleration for me. Our region comprises six counties – Fulton, Montgomery, Schoharie, Otsego, Herkimer, and Oneida. The notion of aligning economic development priorities across six incredibly diverse and loosely connected counties will certainly be a challenge. Yet this process frames a larger discussion for everyone and challenges us all to think bigger than our current daily perspectives. The alignment of regional priorities has the potential to create new dialogue and opportunities that might not happen otherwise.

Through community participation meetings in Cooperstown and Utica (more are scheduled), I’ve been reminded of the many assets of this region and the diverse resources that serve as tremendous building blocks for an overarching economic development strategy. It’s important to keep our lens wide when considering economic development priorities that can account for all the assets and maximize their potential throughout the region.

The final theme for me in this process is acceleration. The regional approach to this initiative is fast-paced, as we began our work on August 11 and must have a plan submitted by November 14. In the meantime, we have multiple processes simultaneously under way, including community town hall meetings to gain insight from all corners of the region. By developing priorities that align the region around the assets that currently exist, our work and progress can be accelerated much more than if we were six counties working independently, leaving the alignment to chance.

They say the formula for success=preparation + opportunity.  I believe this plan will prepare our region to take advantage of opportunities, whether it’s this current round of funding or future opportunities.

When I think about this region as a whole, I’m reminded of the phrase, “Attitude determines your Altitude,” but perhaps that’s a title for a future a future blog post.

For more information on the Regional Economic Development Council initiative, please visit http://nyworks.ny.gov/content/mohawk-valley.  

If you have any comments on this post, please contact me directly at presblog@mvcc.edu.