Refining Cayuga County’s Economic Value Proposition

Brad Broadwell, Cayuga Strategic Solution’s Chief Executive Officer, was featured in The Citizen this month with his column “CEDA: Refining Cayuga County’s economic value proposition.” As the CEO of CSS, the joint venture of the Cayuga County Chamber of Commerce (the Chamber) and the Cayuga Economic Development Agency (CEDA), Brad’s perspective on economic development is all about  building a sustainable community. Read on for the full article, or, you can check it out on The Citizen

The Cambridge dictionary defines economic development as “the process in which an economy grows or changes and becomes more advanced, especially when both economic and social conditions are improved.” To drill down a bit, it also refers to the process by which the overall health, well-being, physical environment and education capacities in the general population improve. To some economic developers, it’s all about jobs. Then there are others like myself who want to enhance tax revenues and create jobs, but understand that it is best done by building a sustainable community.

In order to foster strong state, regional or national economies, economic developers need to always be assessing local and national strengths and weaknesses, workforce needs and trends, national and global supply chain/business needs and, most importantly, legislation or directives that federal and state governments are supporting.

If you have followed the business news from around the country, you’ll understand that despite periodic downturns in our economy over the last 50 years, there has been a number of regional economies that have flourished whether the domestic economy was riding high or flailing miserably. Tech economies such as Austin, Seattle, Boston, Raleigh, Washington, D.C., and the San Francisco Bay area have avoided the downturns.

What exactly does all this mean for Cayuga County? I know we aren’t those cities/regions, and we do not have the array of assets that they can draw upon, but we do have our own assets. If we choose to work together, we can compete for a portion of these high-paying technology jobs.

Cayuga County’s current strong sectors are agriculture, tourism and manufacturing. I am not suggesting a change in focus or support to who we are and what we do well. What I do advocate for is to look for opportunities to utilize our community assets to attract capital in one of the ever-growing technology sector industries in order to help strengthen our local economy, boost our ability to weather the ups and downs of our nation’s economy, and provide excellent jobs now and for the next several decades.

Through my own career and professional experience, I have witnessed the dramatic increase of tech jobs and direct investment in the Research Triangle (Raleigh/Durham/Chapel Hill) of North Carolina. I worked to develop, on behalf of the Research Triangle Regional Partnership, a cleantech attraction strategy (“cleantech” is a blanket term referring to a wide variety of environmentally-friendly practices and technologies), which was created and deployed to move or attract businesses from all over the world to Raleigh. Over a five-year period in which I worked as an economic developer, the cleantech sector grew at a yearly 24.4% rate, adding $4.6 billion to the gross regional product. This was in addition to our sector strength in advanced manufacturing, ag tech and life sciences.

If you are not familiar with what a cluster is, let me help. A cluster represents a geographic concentration of interconnected companies and institutions in a particular field. Common components include a variety of small or startup companies, a few mid-sized firms, one or two large companies, and often research universities and other governmental organizations involved in its continued development.

So what is it that we need to create a successful cluster strategy?

There are many facets to this answer, but successful economic development programs understand their community’s weaknesses and capacities. Most cluster development strategies rely on entrepreneurs, strong partnerships with local/area universities, a reliable well-trained workforce, and a sustainable community. Possibly the easiest and yet most difficult objective to achieve is getting the entire community to recognize its strengths and areas where it can compete on a global market. This is what we will be doing at the Cayuga Economic Development Agency, talking about and strategizing how Cayuga County can identify and refine its value proposition to the region as well as to the rest of the country, to attract the jobs and workforce we so desire.

—Brad Broadwell

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