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Taking the guess work out of economic development

Published: Friday, April 5, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT

Economic development has become the buzz phrase for solving a magnitude of our financial problems. But what is economic development? For the McHenry County Economic Development Corp., the mission is the retention, expansion and attraction of primary employers. OK, what is a primary employer? A primary employer is a company that sells a product or a service outside of the county, hence driving revenue back in the form of payroll.

Let’s take the elephant in the county – the former Motorola facility in Harvard. The facility is fantastic, sitting on 325 acres. What is being done to promote it? Raising the visibility is what I am all about. The object is to tell as many people as we can about the vacant facility because you never know whom people talk to at the store, restaurant, or in the seat next to you on an airplane trip.

Two years ago, the MCEDC translated into Chinese marketing material provided by Jones Lang LaSalle and forwarded it to our friends at the Rockford Area EDC. They shared that piece at a trade show in China with individuals discussing foreign direct investment. Since then, we have shared the material with delegations from China, Korea and Hong Kong, to name a few. Also, we have met with staffs of our senators and congressmen so if a business or individual mentions a need, they know whom to call.

The MCEDC assists with workforce needs, financial connections, state programs and introductions to other businesses. On April 11, the annual Manufacturers’ Matchmaking Event will be from 7:30 to 11:30 a.m. at the Holiday Inn in Crystal Lake. More than 600 one-on-one meetings will occur. The goal is to develop relationship that hopefully will result in business, joint venture or further introductions to other companies. We know from previous events much is accomplished in a short period of time. Those relationships are critical to success.

The MCEDC subscribes to economic indicators and spending patterns of our community. The reports generated from this data assist all types of businesses to determine spending patterns or demographics within a circumference around a location. That information can be extremely helpful when choosing a building or facility that would best drive sales, employment and success.

On a municipal level, reports can assist with the marketing and outreach for business attraction. For example, a municipality’s residents may be spending a large sum of money on auto parts, but within that municipality no auto parts store exists, hence lost sales tax to another municipality. The answer could be to contact an auto parts company, share the information and possibly attract it to your city.

My favorite project in the last 12 months was working with McHenry County high schools on the International Manufacturing Technology Show in Chicago. Last September, 844 students experienced the global reach of manufacturing as well as how technology impacts production and operations. We continue to work with the high schools, McHenry County College, workNet and our manufacturers to share career opportunities. Thanks to Sage Products, which opened its doors in February for teachers and students to tour and learn about the facility. The Sage team shared opportunities for students interested in science, engineering, marketing, IT, robotics and manufacturing.

McHenry County is strong because we work together and strongly believe in our communities. At the Economic Development Corp., we focus on advocating and assisting our business community to remain strong, remain here and take the guess work out of economic development.

• Pam Cumpata is president of the McHenry County Economic Development Corp. For more information, call 815-893-0895, or visit www.mcedc.com.

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