Northwest Herald Article - April 2016

The Brookings Institution, a private non-profit organization whose mission is to conduct high quality, independent research and, based on research, to provide innovative, practical recommendations for policy makers and the public, recently released a report on the "Remaking of Economic Development."

The five action principles are as follows:

  • Set the right goals - reflect a more foundational and holistic approach to expand the economy and opportunity
  • Grow from within - prioritize established and emerging firms and industries, invest in ecosystems of innovation, trade, talent, infrastructure and governance to support globally competitive firms and small business to start and grow
  • Boost trade - facilitate export growth and trade with other markets, deepen regional industry specializations and bring in new income and investment
  • Invest in people and skills - human capital and increasing capabilities results in meaningful work and income gains
  • Connect Place - catalyze economic place making and work, connect local communities to regional jobs, housing and opportunity.

What creates excitement and pride for me personally, is that the McHenry County Economic Development Corporation along with our local partners - McHenry County Government, McHenry County Workforce Board and Network, McHenry County College, McHenry County Education districts, Primary Employers, Health Systems, Agriculture leaders, our municipal partners and collaborative entities, have been executing on these Five Action Principles for years and ‘remaking’ is not necessary.

Business retention and expansion has been critical to understanding and providing assistance to companies growing right here.  MCEDC is a one stop shop providing resources, research and consulting to help businesses grow.  Our Business Retention and Expansion committee was created 25 years ago with volunteers who participated in our Business Visitation program.  We still do these and in fact, these visits are part of our strategic priorities.  By meeting with a company, we can determining needs, connect them to resources, provide troubleshooting and can be their voice in Springfield and Washington DC.

Connecting with the workforce of today and tomorrow has also been a priority with us.  Our business ambassador program had business volunteers meet with high school classes in the early 2000’s, we partnered with MCC on the Welding Bootcamp in 2007 and in subsequent collaborations helped to establish a robust manufacturing curriculum. 

Who remembers "Careers in our County"?  Over 3,000 high school students had an opportunity to meet with 30 McHenry County employers at MCC and Woodstock North High School for this event which MCEDC held for several years.  Now MCC and many high schools are doing it themselves.  But back 10 years ago, the MCEDC board and staff saw the need to expose our young people to careers right here.  I can remember the presentation by local Human Resource professionals who asked "How many piercing and mid drift is too much to show at an interview?" Some of you may say that still should be presented in high school and older along with turn off your cell phones doing interviews!

In 2012, many county manufacturers financially supported over 800 high school students so they could attend the International Manufacturing Technology Show and then in 2014 supported another 1,200 high school students to the show.  Ask any educator and student who attended the show how impressed the students were with the machines, the processes, the careers and how it helped them to understand the components of manufacturing and opened their eyes to potential careers.

Infrastructure investment - who led the way those many years ago?  From the Algonquin Bypass, the MCEDC Road Warriors and the Road Kill Lunches we provided for our Springfield legislators, MCEDC has been a loud voice supporting transportation and road projects.  As the MCEDC celebrates 25 years, we are looking through many pictures that show our investors, elected officials and others traveling to Springfield and Washington to advocate for funding to address congestion and road projects.  Now, we continue our focus on the new super highway - dark fiber and connectivity - so that every business, home, school, emergency management, municipality can operate effectively.

On a regional basis, McHenry County is working closely with our Chicago area partners on a number of initiatives:  Chicago Metro Metals Consortium, Chicago Metro Exports, Foreign Direct Investment and then with our partners in Boone and Winnebago, the Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy.

A few other initiatives initiated by MCEDC include:  a dedicated manufacturing website, the first in Illinois Certified Sites website, Manufacturing Matchmaking events, planners charrettes, legislative forums, muni economic development roundtables, McHenry County Makers Movement, CEO Peer Group, Emerging Leaders Program, Enhancing Excellence speaker series, workforce housing focus and of course, Visit McHenry County, which also began as a committee of the MCEDC.

Globally, the Brookings Institution is well respected and I am thrilled and excited to have the opportunity to work with them on the Export and Foreign Direct investment projects.  I am also pleased that MCEDC and our Board of Directors over the years have had the economic development vision that is highlighted in the Brookings report.    As you can see from the initiatives that grew out of the MCEDC, we were and continue to be ahead of the curve.  As an organization, we are extremely proud of these accomplishments and excited for the economic development future for McHenry County.

Visit www.mcedc.com for information on upcoming events, opportunities and assistance.

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