Deb Hadachek – Telescope Editor
At the end of an hour-plus presentation of all the activities Republic County Economic Development was involved with in 2016, director Luke Mahin commented that he has been approached by commissioners from other counties with the question “How do we set up an economic development program like yours?”
That’s not a question with easy answers.
For years, Republic County and the City of Belleville debated the merits of “economic development”. Those two entities fund the entire program, even though it benefits the county as a whole.
The value of “economic development”, at least in its early stages, is sometimes hard to name. I’ve always suspected if “economic development” doesn’t bring in an industry that employs 500 people every week, people will gripe that “they’re not doing anything.”
But as Luke’s annual report showed, a lot of unglamorous, behind-the-scenes work of economic development benefits everyone from students to mom-and-pop shops to large businesses and industries.
RCED helped lobby for Rural Opportunity Zone scholarships to bring college graduates and their families to the county. They promoted the Neighborhood Revitalization Program that encourages new construction for both businesses and individuals–and in turn, helps the county’s tax base.
When the possibility of a wind farm emerged last year, it was RCED that arranged informational meetings for landowners, and gathered data from other counties on what commissioners should think about in terms of road development and payments in lieu of taxes.
The RCED has helped facilitate several business retirement transitions, and has resources to help new and existing businesses strengthen their bottom line. Because of their help, for instance, Cuba still has a grocery store, Courtland has taken a hard look at housing, and day care providers and parents had an opportunity to learn about resources to help meet the demand of child care.
Those are only a handful of the projects that RCED has lent its support.
Stuff that happens in small communities often doesn’t “just happen”. Likely there are people in the background saying “What can we do to help?”
That’s the value of RCED volunteers and staff, and we are lucky to have them.
Click to view the 2016 Annual Report