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Chautauqua County Leverages Economic Development Strategic Plan to Secure Long Term Funding for Projects Across the Community

Strategic plans or organizational capacity analysis can be one of the most challenging endeavors for an economic development organization or municipality. Yet, these elements set the groundwork for the ability to remain on the path to a shared vision, even if roadblocks turn up along the way. Camoin’s client, Chautauqua County, NY, successfully demonstrates how organizing with a strong foundation of partnerships leads to successful outcomes of long-term economic development goals.

Over the course of just four years, Chautauqua County successfully outlined and executed on a reorganization of their economic development entity (the Chautauqua County Partnership for Economic Growth), developed a robust strategic plan through various levels of engagement for the new organization, then began to roll out the strategy only to be faced with the social and economic realities of COVID-19. As the pandemic unfolded, the Chautauqua County Partnership for Economic Growth (“the Partnership”) remained steadfast to their long-term goals while responding to immediate needs. The engagement work that went into developing the Economic Development Strategic Plan helped form the basis of how entities collaborated to address pandemic needs and ultimately strengthened the response available to county businesses. Chautauqua County’s ability to remain focused on their long-term vision, coupled with their insistence on strong collaboration among stakeholders, recently led them to acquire $1.05 million in funding from the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation that will support the implementation of the Economic Development Strategic Plan. This vital funding source helps answer the question, “how will we execute the strategic plan?” The grant award from is the Partnership’s largest financial commitment to date and will act as “local-matching dollars for catalytic economic and community development projects” that seek funding from a range of sources. Acquiring matching dollars can often be a barrier to lift a project from concept to action.

Engagement Leads to a Call to Action for Partners

In April 2020, the Camoin Associates launched the results of the Economic Development Strategic Plan with the County through a virtual meeting. Actions within the plan are already being collaboratively executed and additional funding is being pursued to adequately resource the implementation phase for years to come. While engagement throughout the plan was key to tailoring initiatives to the values and market realities of the Chautauqua County, two aspects of engagement remain critical to the Partnership in implementation of the strategic plan: 1) ongoing collaboration across sectors, and 2) continued communication with the business and resident community.  Mark Geise, CEO of the County of Chautauqua Industrial Development Agency (CCIDA) and Deputy County Executive for Economic Development, continues to write a monthly column for the Observer and The Post Journal that elaborates on the elements of the plan with the greatest relevance to the public and generally celebrates the economic development successes within the community. This frequent communication stream between economic development/planning partners and the public helps establish a trust among these groups and brings to light the incremental successes that add up to substantial change.

The plan had direct input from over 120 individual stakeholders, who represent a vast range of interests in Chautauqua County. The way that engagement was executed during the planning process was designed to directly lead to implementation. Five work groups were established underneath the umbrella of the Partnership: Business Development, Workforce Readiness and Development, Housing, Community Development, Tourism and Destination Development. This comprehensive approach resulted in the creation of projects within the five work groups and dozens of other key recommendations to be initiated by individual partners as well as collectively. It was designed to serve as a “call to action” and offers a clear vision for achieving economic prosperity in Chautauqua County.

Is your organization or municipality in need of guidance on developing a strategic plan and defining a vision for the future of your business community? Strategic Planning Team Leader Dan Gundersen would be happy to discuss further with you 804-625-2650.

To check out Chautauqua County’s Economic Development Strategy, click here.


Cover Photo  – by Craig Lyndall on Unsplash