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December 02, 2016
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Transformation in progress

Transformation—it’s one of today’s buzz words, latched onto by many organizations dealing with myriad pressures, such as global competition, the state of the economy and new technology.

We use the word a lot in economic development. The question to be asked is whether there is strategic action behind it, or whether it is merely used as a marketing tool. Care must be taken as to whether the transformative actions are needed and the proposed outcomes are good.

For the past six years, WEDCO and other organizations have built infrastructure and partnerships that are foundations for change, notably the newly approved Sterling Business Park and Workforce Wayne, Inc. We are thinking and acting strategically as a region through the Pike/Wayne Business Education Partnership, Pike/Wayne Career and Technology Center Taskforce, Hawley Silk Mill project, Pike/Wayne Business Incubator committee and the Northeast PA Bioscience Initiative. An important element of all these activities is that they are being done collaboratively. All have a place in regional transformation.

Taking a collaborative, systematic approach to economic and workforce development activities hasn’t always been done in the past, but it is the future. Technology demands it, competition demands it, lack of resources demands it.

Workforce Wayne provides an excellent model for collaboration with over 100 businesses, educational institutions, community organizations and government entities engaged in strategic action to improve the skills of our labor force. Through its efforts, Wayne and Pike counties boost Community Career and Training Sites within their libraries and have a new technology lab at the Hawley Silk Mill—the first shared learning space for technology training within the two counties. This partnership is also spearheading the Career and Technology Center project, which would integrate curriculum and career development.

WEDCO’s approach to economic development is building the components of an economic ecosystem as a means to spur business attraction, job growth, private investment and regional cooperation. We aim to connect multiple initiatives in the realms of business financing, workforce development, business assistance and infrastructure development into a dynamic system that exponentially increases entrepreneurial support.

One of our goals is building an Enterprise Center in Sterling Business Park. This facility would not focus on a specific industry, but on digital information and technology as the horizontal linkage between vertically-oriented industries. This approach will enable growth across multiple industries, such as back-office support, business continuity, computer-animated graphics, film editing, digital imaging, medical records, computer systems engineering and software and internet marketing. Focusing on digital information and technology enables us to leverage existing partnerships with the region’s robust network of higher educational institutions. Digital information is a good fit for a region that is seeing an influx of new talent, has a connection to the urban areas and wants a low-environmental impact industry to retain its quality of place.

Finally, a new collaboration within the region is Wayne Tomorrow! Led by the Wayne County Commissioners, this initiative seeks to establish an inclusive process for on-going dialogue and create a shared vision that will build our community and help guide development of Wayne County. This effort will further integrate economic and workforce development, and also agricultural planning, sustainability and quality of place issues. Garnering input from diverse sectors within our community will help us to define our economic development strategy, leveraging all the good being done throughout various organizations and communities to help truly transform the region.

[Mary Beth Wood is the executive director of Wayne Economic Development Corporation, Wayne County, PA, and a board member of regional and state organizations including the Northeastern Pennsylvania Alliance and Penn’s Northeast.]