Fear of the unknown can apply to many situations in life. But throughout 2019, we are embarking on a number of initiatives to help remove any fear that exists concerning the term “Economic development.”

These two words can mean vastly different things to different people.

For example, many people believe that economic development means big box operations whether retail, manufacturing or warehousing—and lots of pavement. In Adams County, we approach economic development a little differently. Our history is at the core of our identity and must be preserved. The hospitality and tourism industry provides the services for our residents and visitors alike. We have a thriving, vibrant agriculture industry that requires natural resources, and needs protection too. In Adams County, we view land preservation as a type of economic development. Land that is protected in perpetuity is just as important and valuable as that manufacturer who employs hundreds of local citizens. We need food, and food requires farms. It’s important to protect our land and other valuable natural resources such as water. In this way, each county has a unique economic development strategy balancing many unique factors.

To shed further light on the subject, we asked our current board members to be the “voices of economic development” and share their perspectives about what economic development is—and isn’t:

“I define economic development as the development of a community over time to include standard of living, availability of jobs, access to affordable housing and healthcare, financial resources, quality schools, and everything else which a human society needs to prosper and grow.”

“Economic development is the ability to attract and retain a suitable and sufficient business base in order to support the County and make it a better place to live. I believe most of the people that are outspoken against economic development don’t understand it and don’t want to understand it. They are only interested in defending their little piece of the world without change.”

“I think the biggest misconception is that economic development is building industrial parks or bringing in big business. In Adams County, that just isn’t how we approach economic development. Those who are engaged in the pieces every day live here. We all want to see what we have retained, but we also want to see better jobs, better pay, reasonable taxes, quality infrastructure. To have those things, we do need to have a balance of business. It doesn’t mean paving over everything… it means finding industries and people who match our character and helping them to prosper.”

“Economic development is the process of defining the economic nature of a community, creating an environment suitable for compatible businesses, and developing tools to recruit them. It is much more multi-faceted and complex than most people think. ‘Build it and they will come’ is for the movies.  It takes time and hard work and many private and public partners working together to move forward.”

“Economic Development is a dirty word to many as they do not want to see change. They are content to have to travel out of county for work, goods and services. They do not understand the benefits of more tax base which helps us all. I am very pleased the Alliance is working on this issue of Demystifying Economic Development. Local Government has a very big role to play in this subject. We need to show our residents the benefits and debunk the feeling that change is bad for us. Planned, controlled growth is good for all of us and will improve our quality of life.”

Keep an eye out this year for more perspectives and education on the topic of economic development. Our goal is to clear the air and make economic development a topic of conversation for the continued   enhancement of our Adams County community.

This column was originally published in the Gettysburg Times, February 14, 2019