Putting together plans is great. The CEDS plan is one more tool in the box, something that can help guide municipalities, grant writers, and planners. We can add it to the numerous other studies and plans that have been developed over the past few years. They are all valuable resources and should not be discounted for what they are.
But what we really need is investment, by entrepreneurs and developers willing to open up their checkbooks and double down on Windham County in general and the Deerfield Valley in particular.
It wouldn’t be the first time. The region has seen booms before, with the industrial development brought about by the “Hoot, Toot, and Whistle” railroad in the late 1800s and early 1900s and the ski resort expansion of the 1960s, ‘70s, and ‘80s. Money was pumped into the region, jobs were created, and real growth took place. That’s what we need again today, and we need it in a sustainable way, rather than a boom and bust cycle. That investment can come in the form of existing businesses expanding, or new businesses moving into the area.
Working together is important. Business and communities need to move beyond the mentality of “my neighbor is my competitor” and understand the real competition may be across the country or halfway around the world. Businesses need to support one another. Government needs to support its business community and find ways to encourage business development and expansion, not discourage it.
A key component of any economic development plan is to raise the standard of living for those who are already here. It’s great to talk about creating jobs, but we can’t lose focus on the ones that are already here. Training and opportunity for personal growth have to be encouraged and fostered.
Another key item is to foster cooperative attitudes between employer and employee, and the public in general. Making a profit shouldn’t be considered a sin. Businesses should be encouraged to make a fair profit, and management should be willing to share that success with their employees. A good, responsible business should realize that it is built by the efforts of its staff. That’s the essence of a strong economy.
Economic development can mean many things to many people, but it all boils down to sustainability, to creating jobs, and keeping or infusing money into the region. For those things to take place, we all have to shoulder some of the load. We can’t just develop a plan and then wait for someone else to make it happen.