Thursday, April 1, 2010

Different methods but same hope

Economic development is used to help create jobs for those who live in rural communities. Each community has a different method, but the hope is always the same; create jobs and see a community grow.
Rural Learning Center President Randy Parry said the economic development impact is huge on a community. “Once people understand that it is possible to accomplish change, they then see that the future is not hopeless and they actually see things and are able to understand why change happened,” he said. “They are actually moving and growing.”
The key moving forward is to be more efficient in helping businesses, Lake Area Improvement Corporation Executive Director Dwaine Chapel said. “The cost of doing business hasn’t increased as drastically as the risk of doing business has increased.”
Chapel heads Madison’s efforts to create jobs using a partnership network by helping businesses expand, recruiting businesses, providing incentives for workforce development, helping market Lake County and working with investors in Forward Madison.
The Forward Madison campaign, created three years ago, set a goal of 400 jobs. To date, the campaign has created 360 jobs.
“It has also helped set an atmosphere for company expansions,” Chapel said. “Recruitment is a great opportunity and a very important part of the overall picture, but you need to take care of who is here first.”
Over the past few years, the LAIC has worked on expansion projects with CE Attachments, Integra Plastics and Rosebud Manufacturing. The development group helped create a Tax Incrementing Finance (TIF) District for affordable housing and also worked with James River Equipment and Heartland Consumers Power District in their efforts to move into the Lakeview Industrial Park.
“The community is much more aware of all the things they can do to be part of economic development,” Chapel said. “Each individual industry within Madison is part of economic development. They all become one and this helps the community grow.”
Chapel said there are companies looking to move, but the cost of attracting those companies has increased dramatically.
Forward Madison incentives have helped. These incentives include electric rebates and workforce training in forms of hiring and training incentives, as well as negotiating places for employees to live. In addition, LAIC has put together an entrepreneurial program that helps with business plan development and working with financials.
Howard is constructing a multi-dimensional complex that will have a hotel, wellness center and conference training facility. The focus will be leadership development, housing and economic development, as well as wind and solar training and rural health issues. The building will be a LEED platinum, certified building.
Parry said several communities are calling and asking for help and advice. “This is a place where people can come in and connect, grow and learn from each other.”
The Rural Learning Center’s mission is to create a unique place for people to gather, to converse, and to strategically plan ways of improving the lives of the people in rural America. The building will tie into that mission, according to Parry.
“Not only will it be a place where people can come and exchange ideas and learn, but it will also be a place where people from anywhere in the world will be able to exchange these ideas through video conferencing and Internet access,” Parry said. “We don’t have all the answers. What we do have is to share what we have learned over the years and connect that with other entities that also can help their communities grow.”

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