Pam's Blog - March 2017

"Knowledge is power" Francis Bacon

Recently I was spending time with my grandchildren and thinking about how different life will be for them compared to how it was when I was growing up. Take for example, the process of writing a school report. When I was a kid, it involved a trip to the library and a card catalog that really was cards. Or, if you were lucky enough, your parents or a friend's parents had a set of encyclopedias that you could use in a pinch. Now we have the internet, and with just a few clicks of the mouse, my granddaughter can unlock an entire world of information. For her, the issue is not finding it, but sorting through it and deciding what is good. The same holds true for businesses today.

Businesses thrive on access to solid information. Just like my granddaughter, the internet has opened an entire world of data that is relatively easy to access. Many businesses are struggling not with quantity, but quality. How do I know the data is any good? Does it really pertain to me? Is it accurate? These are the questions being asked. Business leaders know the quality of the data could be the difference between mediocre or amazing when it comes to crafting strategy and making decisions. That is why the McHenry County Economic Development Corp. (MCEDC) works hard to provide our local business community with data and research that is both meaningful and trustworthy.

A perfect illustration of our work in this area are the business visitations we conduct each year. Over the course of a year, MCEDC staff, board members and partners conducted 100 individual one on one business visitations. Why? First, we want to let our businesses know that they are valued and appreciated for their impact on our economy. Secondly, through these meetings, we can see trends, issues and concerns that need to be communicated and addressed.

For example, a recurrent theme we heard during the visitations in 2012, 2013 and 2014 was a concern for developing a skilled workforce to replace an aging one. To act on this issue, MCEDC has been partnering with McHenry County College, the McHenry County Workforce Investment Board and others to provide skills training and to establish a youth outreach program on the value of, and need for, STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) education. From intern programs to facility tours, we are actively engaging our youth and encouraging the development of skills which we need in our workplace today and tomorrow.

Using the insights gained in the business visitations, the MCEDC has also been able to provide customized assistance either by connecting companies to resources that they may need, advocating for solutions to the challenges they are facing, or finding solutions to obstacles they are experiencing. Odds are if one company is working to overcome a challenge, other companies in the county are facing similar situations. For this reason, we also seek to communicate the knowledge we gain and the data we collect in a meaningful way that benefits all the businesses in the county through educational forums for municipal staff and elected officials as well as economic development presentations before business groups.

These presentations provide information on basic economic development practices as well as current trends, highlight the collaboration that occurs regionally, as well as with municipal staff and MCEDC through partnering for business visitations, providing research and proprietary reports (over 1000 during the last 5 years) as well as sharing information on initiatives and programs that could support municipalities and local businesses. We also have a wide range of data and resources including Economic Modeling, which is available through our website or by giving us a call. Think of it as a "one-stop-shop" for business information.

Francis Bacon stated that "knowledge is power" and I couldn't agree more. At the MCEDC, we work diligently to empower our businesses and municipalities with reliable knowledge that truly fuels economic growth. If you haven't used our resources in the past, I encourage you to visit our website (Click here) and check out all of the available support and data that can help your business grow.

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