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County making economic development plans

 

The county is doing a survey to gauge the attitudes of local residents and businesses towards economic development. The County Commissioners, with the help of the Ravalli County Economic Development Authority (RCEDA) and Bitterroot Resource

Conservation and Development (RC&D), are putting together Phase I of a Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS) for Ravalli County.

A CEDS is designed to bring together the public and private sectors in the creation of an economic roadmap to diversify and strengthen the local and regional economy. The document will analyze the regional economy and serve as a guide for establishing regional goals and objectives, developing and implementing a regional plan of action, and identifying investment priorities and funding sources.

A CEDS integrates a region’s human and physical capital planning in the service of economic development. Integrated economic development planning provides the flexibility to adapt to ever-changing economic conditions. Having a road map of regional and local assets enables the utilization of the region’s unique advantages and strengths to maximize economic opportunity for its residents by attracting the private investment that creates jobs and tax base for the region’s residents.

A CEDS is the result of a continuing economic development planning process developed with broad-based and diverse public and private sector participation. It sets forth the goals and objectives necessary to solve the economic development challenges of the region and measures the metrics of success.

The first CEDS was composed about 10 years ago in cooperation with Missoula and Mineral Counties. The three counties had been grouped together into a regional economic development district. However, after registering numerous complaints about the unequal distribution of economic development funds within the region, the Ravalli County Commissioners decided to withdraw from the regional program and go it alone. Former commissioner Matt Kanenwisher then spearheaded a local effort at making a plan for Ravalli County called the STEP program and began an inventory of Ravalli County businesses and assessment of the local economy. Those efforts stalled out following his resignation as commissioner.

But RCEDA and Bitterroot RC&D have recently renewed the efforts at drafting the county’s own CEDS and have published a questionnaire seeking input from local businesses and citizens.

“We are trying to identify economic trends in the valley,” said Allen Bjergo, President of Bitterroot RC&D. Bjergo participated in compiling the first CEDS ten years ago and on the update which was done five years later. He said the best way to do that is to connect directly with the businesses and citizens that are driving that economy.

The survey is designed to identify the perceived strengths and weaknesses of the local economy and identify external opportunities and threats to the local economy.

Bjergo said that the aim was to complete the survey by the end of January 2013. He said they are a little behind in the process due to events outside their control and are asking people to respond as quickly as possible to the questionnaire. Copies of the questionnaire can be obtained from the RCEDA office at the Ravalli Entrepreneurship Center at 274 Old Corvallis Road, Suite A, or call 375-9416 or it may be obtained online at www.surveymonkey.com/s/CNQHTWF.

Bjergo said that citizen involvement and the response of local businesses is critical to establish a well-rounded perspective of Ravalli County needs and issues.

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