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River Roots Redevelopment: Guest Writer - Clarion County CCEDC


The Clarion County Economic Development Corporation is the lead economic development organization (EDO) for Clarion County. But what exactly does that mean? What is an economic development organization? How does an EDO compare to a Chamber of Commerce or a Redevelopment Authority? Throughout my time with the CCEDC, I have often been asked a variety of these questions. It is an important question, so I would like to share a few thoughts to unpack it.

To start, there is clearly no single entity that is solely responsible for job creation and quality of life improvements in our area. Chambers of commerce, industrial development authorities, business improvement districts, etc. all play an important and distinctive role in the betterment of a community. Historically, the main responsibility of an EDO was business attraction. Organizations, like the CCEDC, set out to showcase their community in order to attract new businesses. This would, in turn, create new jobs and power the economy. In the last decade, the scope of EDOs has broadened. Business attraction remains a priority for EDOs, but many EDOs are restructuring to meet the needs of a whole new host of challenges. Those new challenges would include workforce development, entrepreneurial and small business development, neighborhood/community development, tourism development, and others. It is important to understand why this broadening has occurred, particularly for small, rural communities.

The missions of EDOs vary from place to place and largely reflect the economic opportunities of their respective communities. Two major factors determine the success of an EDO. The first is an EDOs understanding of its community’s strengths, weaknesses, and critical issues of the local economy. The second is the EDOs ability to influence the growth and restructuring of a community’s economic trajectory and overall wellbeing. Since every community is different and community’s needs are always changing, the strategies of EDOs must be under frequent reevaluation.

In Clarion County, the CCEDC has shifted its work to include the highlight of two key economic concepts -- main street revitalization and tourism development. Clarion County, like all rural Pennsylvania counties, has experienced steady population decline over the past decade. Reasons behind the decline include the loss of major industries, urban growth, shrinking birth rates, inadequate broadband connectivity, and lack of quality housing stock. It has been said more than once that Pennsylvania’s greatest export is its youth, resulting in our emerging workforce taking root elsewhere. According to the Center for Rural Pennsylvania, if this trend continues to unfold, Clarion County’s population is set to decline an additional 4.7% by the year 2050. To combat this trend, the CCEDC has begun to invest resources toward “people-attraction.” The Clarion County Main Street Initiative is set to begin in 2024 and will commence with the visioning and planning toward a rebirth of our small towns. This could include redevelopment or reuse of existing spaces, beautification, façade, and overall functionality improvements. Concurrently, the CCEDC is restructuring to become the county’s certified tourism promotion agency. This opportunity will allow the CCEDC to have control over the promotion of our tourism assets and destination marketing strategies. Though the use of tourism dollars will be targeted to attract overnight visitors, strategies employed will also work to develop the livability of our community and support our communities toward attracting tourists, residents, and businesses alike. While these strategies are not a silver bullet, they can provide a catalytic platform for communities to collaborate toward the development and promotion of their best assets, restore civic pride, and better their abilities to attract new residents and families.

- Jarred Heuer, Executive Director, Clarion County Economic Development Corporation. For More info. about the Clarion County Economic Development Corporation can be found on their website at clarioncountyedc.com .

 

Rachel Brosnahan is the Community Engagement Coordinator for River Roots Redevelopment. She can be reached by email at rachel@riverrootsredevelopment.org

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