County Council outlines proactive strategy
As counties across the nation struggle with economic shifts, Delaware County is undertaking a study to develop a 10-year strategy that will promote job growth, opportunity and community vitality.
Delaware County Council presented a public briefing on the progress of a Local Economic Development (LED) strategy being developed as a roadmap to the future for the county’s economic success. The briefing was held March 13 following the regular County Council meeting.
In April 2012, County Council requested that the Commerce Center, in partnership with the Department of Workforce Development, develop a local economic development strategy that encourages county revitalization, industrial site redevelopment, workforce development, and the growth of key industries.
The Redevelopment Authority of the Delaware County Commerce Center contracted with Delta Development Group Inc., a company based in Mechanicsburg that specializes in consulting on strategic planning, community and economic development, government relations and information technology.
Council expects to have results of the study this summer.
“In today’s competitive and challenging economy, we felt it was critical for Delaware County to look ahead, and to develop a sound economic strategy that continues the county’s growth in a positive direction,” said County Council Chairman Tom McGarrigle. “We have many assets in the county, but we also understand the timely issues that impact our economic stability and we are not going to ignore either anticipated or unforeseen challenges that impact our families, our businesses, our schools and our communities.”
He said significant work has already been done during Phase One of the LED process.
Delta consultants have been conducting meetings with a local steering committee and will be getting input from local stakeholders through focus groups.
Delta also conducted an online survey to better understand the interests and issues related to economic development for businesses operating with the county.
As part of Phase One, Delta created an economic profile of the county including labor market characteristics, real estate data, taxation information, transportation networks, financial capital and education opportunities.
The county’s many universities, healthcare systems, a skilled workforce and proximity to the airport were listed as assets, while lack of open land, urban issues in the “inner ring suburbs” and decreased federal and state funding were detailed as obstacles to overcome.
According to Delta’s project outline, the study will “identify and recommend funding opportunities the county can utilize for planned initiatives, assist with categorizing blighted and vacant properties and creating a redevelopment plan, and formulate a 10-year strategy for revitalization.”
Chairman McGarrigle said Delta’s experts will provide the county with two components of the plan: the 10-year Local Economic Development (LED) strategy and a Workforce Development Strategy and Implementation Plan.
“We want to be proactive when it comes to the county’s economic vitality. Delta has the expertise in this area, but also has extensive experience with projects in Delaware County, such as the Ellis Town Center in Newtown and the Swarthmore Town Center West, in addition to projects in other counties and states,” McGarrigle said.
“Delaware County is a small county, land-wise, but we are rich in many other areas and we want to optimize every asset we have from the riverfront in Chester and Marcus Hook to the open space in Chadds Ford and Concord,” he said.
County Council wants to build on recent successes including Monroe Energy’s refinery operation at the former ConocoPhillips site in Trainer, a development project in Ridley Township that includes a hotel, the Mariner East pipeline project to transport ethane and propane to Marcus Hook, and the continued success of both Harrah’s and PPL Park in Chester.
J. Patrick Killian, Director of Commerce for Delaware County, said the LED is like “popping the hood on our economy and going over every part” to ensure it’s in tiptop running shape.
‘Steering’ Delaware County toward strong economic future