Community

What’s the plan? Development officials have some ideas

Planning for economic development

Erie County has a new five-year economic development plan, aimed at tackling the challenges the region faces in today’s business climate.

• Attracting and retaining workers in a tight labor market with record-low unemployment.

• Developing shovel-ready land and “spec” industrial buildings, constructed without a specific tenant in mind.

• Bolstering the region’s logistics infrastructure.

The Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy plan that the Erie County Industrial Development Agency just approved is part of its effort to maintain eligibility for federal grant funds that support loans to businesses. Developed with consultants from MRB Group and Prospect Hill Consulting, the plan focuses heavily on resilience, equity and inclusion, and on “economic justice.”

The updated economic recovery plan “promotes effective economic development in Erie County’s towns, villages and cities through a locally based regionally driven planning process.”

The plan isn’t just about business. Among the key factors it considers are how to attract and retain workers by enhancing quality of life, offering recreational opportunities, promoting safe and affordable housing and providing child care. Regional collaboration is also critical.

But it also cites the “dire need” for speculative development of industrial sites and buildings, access to capital and resources for small businesses, the availability of shovel-ready sites, and the importance of modern and robust logistics infrastructure around water, broadband internet service, energy and transportation.

For over 43 years, the ECIDA has received millions of dollars from the U.S. Economic Development Administration, which is part of the U.S. Department of Commerce. Among other purposes, that money backs the county’s revolving loan fund, which is administered by the Buffalo and Erie County Regional Development Corp., an ECIDA affiliate.

But to maintain eligibility for the funding as a regional planning organization, the ECIDA must submit and update its economic development plan for the county at least every five years. So after doing so in 2011 and 2016, the agency kicked off a new process in July 2021 – with at least two workshops and input from 22 municipalities – and formally adopted the new policy last week.

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