The process of completing a Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS) is no easy undertaking. Yet, a CEDS is a valuable, strategy-driven economic development tool that guides regional efforts to strengthen economies, prepare the workforce, and set the foundation for partners to generate prosperous conditions for residents.
The Central Shenandoah Planning District Commission (CSPDC), headquartered in Staunton, Virginia, embarked on the CEDS process in the beginning of 2018. Determined to develop a plan that was not only robust in content, but also visually appealing, Camoin Associates worked with the CSPDC to leverage the extensive groundwork that was completed during the GO Virginia planning process in the Summer of 2017.
The organization covers the Counties of Augusta, Bath, Highland, Rockbridge, and Rockingham, and the Cities of Buena Vista, Harrisonburg, Lexington, Staunton, and Waynesboro, and 11 incorporated towns. The CSPDC works closely with their local jurisdictions to facilitate the necessary planning, economic development and technical assistance programs to meet their constituents' needs.
The diverse geography of the CSPDC Region, which spans charming downtown centers to sprawling rural countryside, means that the organization must ensure that its programs are multifaceted enough to help the entrepreneurial farmer in Rockingham County, while also responding to the transportation challenges of the Staunton-Augusta-Waynesboro area.
The Economic Development Administration (EDA) has changed their regulations for the CEDS in the last several years, recognizing that some of the tasks put onerous requirements on organizations that did not actually deliver practical results. There are now four primary components to a CEDS that the EDA will consider during their review of the product.
- Summary background: An overview of the economic conditions of the region. This section should include relevant historic and projected data that covers demographics, environmental, geographic, cultural and natural resources. Profiles of the region's infrastructure, industry clusters, or other factors affecting economic performance should also be included.
- SWOT Analysis: An in-depth analysis of regional strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. This is where themes begin to emerge, and the process can transition to strategy development.
- Strategic Direction/Action Plan: This is the portion of the document that answers the questions, "Where do we want to go?" and "How are we going to get there?" This document should prioritize visions for the region and contain the appropriate tasks to achieve those visions. Each vision promotes the individual qualities of each locality, while striving to make a positive regional impact.
- Evaluation Framework: This piece includes performance measures that the organization can refer to overtime to benchmark their progress on the CEDS.1
From the narrative of the Strategic Direction/Action Plan, Camoin collaborated with CSPDC to draft an Action Plan Matrix that will be the primary implementation tool moving forward. It outlines the priority visions areas, as well as specific goals and other factors that will enable implementation of the plan. Five topics rose to the top of importance for the CSPDC’s stakeholders.
II. Physical Infrastructure
III. Regional Assets
Implementation & Next Steps
While the CSPDC will act as the facilitator through the implementation period, they will draw on the expertise of business leaders, other economic development and planning organizations, as well as local, state and federal agencies to continue to move towards achieving the ambitious goals contained in the CEDS.
In August, Camoin's Project Manager, Alex Tranmer, traveled to Staunton to debut the CEDS Executive Summary, as well as discuss the process and major takeaways at the CSPDC's Annual Dinner.
The CSPDC will begin the mandatory 30-day public comment period later this month and then look to their CEDS Committee to adopt the plan in October.
The Executive Summary depicts the region's diversity and highlights the foundational goals under each vision area. A PDF of the Executive Summary is linked here.
1. Modified from the CEDS Content Guidelines provided by the EDA.