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Cumpata: Businesses look beyond boundaries

Published: Friday, March 21, 2014 5:30 a.m. CDT

To say that I am ready for spring is an understatement.

For those of you who know me, summer is my favorite time of year – hot weather, water sports, motorcycle riding, golf and just enjoying the outside. So Thursday morning – on the first day of spring – I open my garage door to snow. Yeah.

Oh, and it gets better. As I drive from Kane County into McHenry County, many of the side roads are covered in ice and littered with accidents. After much backtracking, I reached Randall Road at Route 72. Hurrah, I get to head north because southbound is backed up to Huntley Road as commuters and truck traffic are heading to the toll road or other destinations along the way.

As I smiled at the people stuck in traffic, it reminded me again of how interconnected our region is, and how interdependent we are.   

Municipal, county and state boundaries are not irrelevant, but to a business, they become less relevant when it comes to its customers and workforce. Businesses are just looking for solid employees.

For the individual searching for employment, compensation and opportunity become important, as does reasonable drive times. Customers, on the other hand, might be local, regional or global. The region becomes the real important factor for businesses and employees.

Many of the reports we prepare are not centered on boundaries, but on miles and drive times in a region. For example, together our county and others to the east and west make an exciting, vibrant manufacturing region. We all need to think broader, expanding our vision, breaking down boundary silos, to grow our economy.   

The McHenry County Economic Development Corp.’s mission is the retention, expansion and attraction of primary employers to create a great quality of life. To execute on that mission, we need to understand how being located in this region of the state, country and world can work to our advantage.

In December, the U.S. Department of Commerce announced the Investing in Manufacturing Communities Partnership initiative to help accelerate the resurgence of manufacturing and create jobs.

MCEDC, the McHenry County Workforce Network, McHenry County College and our partners in Winnebago, Boone and Stephenson counties have been collaborating on submitting an application to receive a Manufacturing Designation for our region. With this designation, a region can access a grant pool of $1.3 billion.

Competition is fierce across Illinois and the U.S., but through this collaboration, we are learning how to work together to enhance our regional economy, regardless of the outcome. 

An integral part of the MCEDC mission is outreach to our primary employers. This is clearly one of my favorite responsibilities because I have the opportunity to meet with the chief executives, owners and senior management of companies, and tour many of the manufacturing facilities.

The CEOs in this county are amazing individuals. They are visionary, adaptive, compassionate, involved and dedicated.

Visionary in that they are looking three, five and 10 years into the future. How does the company stay competitive? Do we have the right people, and are we investing in their development? Do we have our fair share of the international market?

Adaptive in that they survived the economic downturn, learned from it and now are building for the future. Compassionate, involved and dedicated to their employees, the community and building for the future.

McHenry County is blessed with many global companies (large and small) selling products and services around the world. Those companies cannot worry about borders or boundaries if they want to survive and thrive. Instead, they embrace the opportunities to be part of the global market while keeping their eye on what is important right here.

MCEDC looks regionally, also, working on complimentary projects to our primary employers that have regional significance, such as the Investing in Manufacturing Communities Partnership, the broadband initiative, transportation access projects and the Manufacturing Matchmaking Event scheduled for June 12 with a goal to expand supply chains.

Visit our websites, www.mcedc.com and www.illinoismanufacturing.net, for information on upcoming events and to get connected.

• Pam Cumpata is president of the McHenry County Economic Development Corp. Reach her at 815-893-0895 or pcumpata@mchenrycountyedc.com.

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