Can you say, “agriculture, preservation, and economic development” in the same breath? Or does it sound like one of those classic “pick the one that doesn’t belong” puzzles?
As someone who’s devoted her entire career to economic development, I’m happy to devote this column to dispelling this myth.
I think one of the reasons these myths exist is because economic development can look slightly different from region to region. Within Pennsylvania, every county or region has an economic development organization (EDO). The industries each of us serve depend on the businesses located in our county. Just as we each have unique human personalities, so too do our counties and regions, therefore so do the EDOs that serve them, in order to support their economies.
Here in Adams County, we have traditionally had three pillars of our economy: agriculture, manufacturing and tourism/hospitality. From the very beginning, our organization has existed in order to support local businesses and industries.
Our very first business report, “The First Five Years,” printed in 1993 when Robert Hendricks served as president, lists a number of business loans facilitated during those formative years. Among the list is Rice Fruit, Osborne Printing, The Pallet Outlet, Wilke Ingenuity, Mt. Valley Farms and Lumber, Concrete Jungle, Littonian Shoe, Yazoo Mills, Round Hill Foods and Colonial Fiberglass—a total of 14 loans totaling $2.5 million dollars. A diverse number of businesses and the ground-breaking beginning of our portfolio—and you can certainly see agricultural businesses represented!
Sometimes people make the assumption that economic development is focused on, well, developing—i.e. building and constructing. But “developing” our economy sometimes means preserving land in order to support those industries who rely upon it. And there is definitely the recognition, within our office and across the county, that Adams County’s quality of life is high—thanks in great part to the hallowed ground within Gettysburg National Military Park, as well as the beautiful land connected to orchards and other agricultural industries, plus our parks and other community resources.
Fast-forward to today: How is the Alliance supporting land preservation and agriculture? Some of our most recent loan customers include:
- In early 2020, we processed a low-interest loan that supported the purchase of Land of Little Horses to owners and operators Maggie and Bill Baldwin.
- Under the umbrella of the Alliance, our Adams County Industrial Development Authority in 2021 applied for $2 million in state grant funding for the Adams County Historical Society’s new facility, through the Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program (RACP).
This next statistic may deserve a drumroll: Over the past 25 years, the Alliance has had a $12 million impact on Adams County’s agricultural industry, through the administration of 50 loans to farmers and ag-related businesses!
The Alliance has even been a state leader recognized for our role in supporting local agriculture. Several years ago, Governor Ed Rendell and Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding presented the Alliance with an award for being one of the top three lenders of loans supporting local agriculture. And we were in fine company—the other two counties were agricultural powerhouses Lancaster and Chester Counties.
One of the most unique loans we ever facilitated involved the purchase of Conewago Township farmland in 2015. Steve Smith’s family had been farming a leased plot of 154 acres for more than 85 years. But in coordination with Adams County Agricultural Land Preservation, Smith and the previous landowners had those acres designated as preserved farmland. A loan through our organization helped him then purchase those fertile acres. It was a truly unique collaboration!
Additionally, on a personal note, I’m proud to serve on the Land Conservancy of Adams County’s Board of Directors, as well as the Road Rally Committee, where we’re gearing up for another exciting event this fall!
In closing, I think the bottom line is that we are all focused on the healthy, prosperous, well-being of our community—whether we work in agriculture, preservation/history, or economic development. I hope that this column helps everyone see economic development in a new light! And if you are interested in learning more about the various business loan products available through the Alliance—please contact me at [email protected]. We are ready to serve you!
Kaycee Kemper is Vice President of Adams Economic Alliance, which comprises three organizations: The Adams County Economic Development Corporation (ACEDC), the Adams County Industrial Development Authority (ACIDA) and the Adams County General Authority (ACGA). Follow us on Twitter (@AdamsAlliance), Facebook (Facebook.com/AdamsAlliance) and LinkedIn (Adams Economic Alliance).
This article originally published in the Gettysburg Times, May 12, 2022