If you work in construction, you can point to buildings that you had a hand in creating. If you’re a teacher, your students are living testaments to your classroom lessons. If you work in food service, you can place a delicious dinner, cake, or cup of coffee in front of your customers as a result of your hard work in the kitchen.
So as economic developers, what are the results or fruits of our labor? As part of our 2019 theme to “Demystify Economic Development” and make it a more approachable, understandable topic, we are devoting today’s column to ten tangible signs of economic development that impact our lives in Adams County:
- Employment: The Alliance meets regularly with businesses of all sizes and structures; entrepreneurs and small businesses as well as large corporations. We offer free consultations and assist businesses seeking access to capital through state and federal programs in order to help them launch, expand or relocate—which brings jobs to Adams County. We also support businesses interested in offering apprenticeships, which cultivates skills needed for workforce development by making connections with our educational partners throughout the county to shape tomorrow’s employees.
- Housing: This one might surprise some people! While economic development is typically known for commercial and industrial growth, economic development is also about providing safe and affordable places in which our residents can live, work and play. It is all interconnected. We are proud to be a partner of the @Home in Adams County initiative currently addressing the need for workforce housing in all price points in Adams County.
- Infrastructure/Utilities: Our communities and businesses need electricity, water, sewer, gas, internet, telephone and additional services. The Alliance assesses needs, advocates for these services to be provided where they are needed, and coordinates with Adams County’s boroughs, townships, and the respective utilities.
- Infrastructure/Transportation: What connects Adams County to the rest of Pennsylvania, Maryland, the Mid-Atlantic Region, and beyond? A network of roadways, highways, railways, with nearby access to airports and ports. This is how goods are moved to and from and through Adams County businesses. Adams County is located within a day’s drive of 40% of the U.S. population and 60% of the Canadian population. For residents, our transportation system (including public transportation) is how Adams County residents travel to their places of employment and easily access travel destinations.
- Tax Base: Much of the Alliance’s work through real estate, land use and planning, jobs, and business services (including low-interest loans) directly impacts Adams County’s tax base. It’s a balancing act, working in conjunction with local government (taxing bodies), to expand the tax base without over-development.
- Amenities: Real estate taxes have a direct financial impact on the county, its six school districts and 34 municipalities in ways that are obvious—and some, not so much! Public services such as police, fire and emergency management are supported in this manner. Perhaps less obvious is the ability for local government to spend on greenways and open spaces and even allow for preservation. Healthcare is more of a priority than an amenity and not all communities have access to the wide ranges of services we do in Adams. A few specifics: The Alliance’s Adams County Industrial Development Authority helped WellSpan Health secure a $16.9 million tax-exempt bond in 2010, and Family First Health secure a $860,000 bond in 2015, to grow the region’s community health resources.
- Community Services: The Alliance partners with numerous Adams County service agencies and nonprofits. Just a few examples: The aforementioned @Home in Adams County initiative is coordinated by the Adams County Community Foundation and South Central Community Action Programs; my colleague Kaycee Kemper serves on the board of the New Oxford Industrial Development Corporation.
- Land Conservation: Another one that surprises many people! Our organization’s role is to work collectively with Adams County’s municipalities, as well as the Adams County Office of Planning and Development, to identify, protect and respect areas dedicated to agriculture, greenways and recreation. Many of our low-interest loans, 49 of the 147 facilitated since 1996, supported Adams County farmers’ land purchases or expansions, enhancing the local ag industry.
- Community Revitalization: Compared to some areas of the state, we are very fortunate that Adams County has a low incidence of blighted properties. The Alliance supports repurposing and redevelopment before new development; currently, we are facilitating the sale of the Gettysburg Station site. Our organization has worked closely and continues to work with potential new businesses locating to vacated sites such as the former Schindler Elevator site.
- Quality of Life: All of the above, combined, creates a unique mix of factors we can call quality of life. In 2017, the Alliance conducted a community survey in which respondents ranked the top strengths of Adams County in the following order: rural lifestyle with a great location, friendly people with a strong sense of community, amenities and schools, beautiful scenery, agriculture, history, low cost of living with low taxes and availability of jobs, plus tourism and its economic benefits.