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Northwest Herald Article February 2016

Over the last 12 months, McHenry County EDC has been involved in the development of the county’s first Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy(CEDS).  The update and expansion of the CEDS for the Northern Illinois Region (Boone, McHenry and Winnebago) represents a natural evolution of a continued focus on regional collaboration in support of economic vitality.  The shared industry strengths, transportation assets and workforce positions the region to be more competitive in the global economy and better leverage resources to drive a strong economy and improve quality of life for residents.

The CEDS Planning process included a mix of public and private sector representatives  that spearheaded the process.   The Strategy Committee included leaders from manufacturing, healthcare and other companies, public officials, community leaders, economic development professionals, workforce development stakeholders and higher education representatives from across the three counties. 

Regional stakeholders prioritized alignment this CEDS with other regional plans that preceded or were concurrent with this process.

The vision is to be a world-class prosperous region with a resilient economic base and superior quality of life that outperforms peer regions in job growth, capital investment and innovation.  Great vision but  how? 

Goal 1:  A collaborative economic development strategy emphasizing communication, cooperation, alignment of initiatives, shared assets and promotion of the region for business investment.

Goal 2: Efficient business development, expansion, diversification, job growth and innovation throughout the region. 

Goal 3: Availability of a skilled and flexible workforce that successfully meets the needs of existing and emerging industries and technologies.

Goal 4: A full range of infrastructure, with emphasis on transportation, utilities and communication in order to successfully meet the needs of the region’s businesses.

Goal 5: Sustainable economic development with redevelopment of underused commercial and industrial properties, including brownfields, and promotion of land use patterns that allow for growth while protecting natural resources.

Goal 6: A higher quality of life through support and enhancement of the region’s sense of community identity, community health, natural features, cultural and recreational amenities, and creative industries.

The CEDS identified industry clusters that are representative of all three counties:

  • Advanced Manufacturing  - aerospace, automotive, metalworking, plastics, chemical, production technology, metal and metal products
  • Transportation, Logistics and Distribution
  • Agriculture & Food Processing – production agriculture, food processing and manufacturing
  • Healthcare and Medical Sciences – healthcare, medical device and supplies manufacturing

Within the CEDs is a tactical plan that will guide all involve parties to drive results and enhance initiatives that are already occurring.  For example, on February 6th , McHenry County Conservation District is hosting a Conservation Congress 2016 at McHenry County College from 8:30 to 5:30.  This planning process will guide how McHenry County looks to preserve the natural resources that we enjoy into the future.  On January 30th, I had the pleasure of attending District 155’s GEMS (Girls in Engineering Math and Science) event for young women in 6 to 8th grades. 

Our future workforce is critical to our future success as a county to remain innovative, to retain and attract business.  After talking to many young women and their parents the future looks extremely bright.  And I know there is an equal number of young men that are as impressive as this group of young women.  So these are just two examples there are many more ongoing in McHenry County everyday so moving the goals within the CEDS will not be difficult.

The CEDS is a guide to keep looking forward and challenging each of us to make tomorrow better than today.  The Steering Committee from McHenry County embraced the greatness of this county and objectively assessed what we can continue to work and improve on.  That is a healthy approach to business, health, family and life.  So I would challenge you to look for the positive in McHenry County, we have a lot to be thankful for and much to improve, but negative thoughts and actions never accomplishes anything.  The CEDS document is available at this address http://www.rmapil.org/assets/documents/2016_2020_ceds.pdf

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