Cumberland Times-News

July 17, 2013

Workgroup: Metrics will help county judge the effectiveness of economic development

Director says office is putting the finishing touches on a new strategic plan

Matthew Bieniek
Cumberland Times-News

— CUMBERLAND — Allegany County commissioners heard an update from a county workgroup on economic development, including plans to create a methodology to measure economic progress in the county.

Those measurements will help judge the effectiveness of the county’s economic development efforts.

Three members of the work group were present at the meeting with commissioners: Matthew Diaz, the county’s economic development director; Thomas Sigerstad, a business professor at Frostburg State University; and Tom Finan, a local businessman.

Diaz said the county’s economic development office is putting the finishing touches on a new strategic plan for economic development.

The plan will contain goals and ideas aimed at economic development.

The workgroup, originally formed last fall, has reviewed the strategic plan several times over the past few months, Diaz said.

The workgroup supports the county’s strategic plan, Finan said.

“It’s well-written,” he said.

“We were quite happy when looking at it, that we didn’t have to reinvent the wheel,” Sigerstad said.

Recently, Allegany County Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Stu Czapski, a member of the workgroup, caused a stir when he said the county has no vision for economic development.

The Allegany County strategic plan has to be scrutinized in concert with other plans affecting economic development in the county, Finan said.

Those other plans include those of the Appalachian Regional Commission, Tri-County Council and the city of Cumberland, among others. The county does not operate in a vacuum, Finan said.

The workgroup wants to find a way to assess successes and failures in the county’s economic development efforts; so to that end, Sigerstad is developing a series of metrics to measure economic development in the county, Finan said.

The metrics will allow the county to see where things stand now and measure whether the strategic plan implementation is successful, Finan said.

Sigerstad said he continues to develop the metrics, which will be akin to a SWOT analysis looking at strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.

“What we are concerned about is how are we going to assign responsibility” for progress or lack of progress in economic development, Sigerstad said. He said he’ll have the metrics ready soon.

Diaz said he plans regular, — likely quarterly — reports, to commissioners on economic development.

Diaz also said he plans something of a public relations campaign to get the word out about the things that Allegany County does well, to attract new businesses.

The strategic plan could be important for future economic development in the county, said Commissioner Bill Valentine.

“It’s important that we get the public to buy in on this. If you get public buy-in, then you have fewer naysayers,” Valentine said.

Commissioner Michael McKay said he’d like regular reports based on the metrics to see how the county is doing with economic development.

“I’m looking forward to the barometer,” McKay said.

The discussion took place last week at a county commission work session at county offices on Kelly Road. Czapski was out of town and could not be present for last week’s meeting.

Contact Matthew Bieniek at mbieniek@times-news.com.