CEDS Spotlight: Southern Alleghenies Planning and Development Commission

The Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS) has the potential to be a true road map that brings together many voices from your region to form a common vision for economic prosperity and resilience.  Through the CEDS Spotlight case studies series, the NADO Research Foundation is highlighting best practices and innovative elements of CEDS planning, development, and implementation from EDDs and other regional development organizations across the country.

 As the Southern Alleghenies Planning and Development Commission (SAP&DC) prepared to write its 2015 – 2019 CEDS for the six South-Central Pennsylvania counties it serves, staff were looking for new ways to feature the CEDS to local and regional stakeholders.  “Transitioning from a static, paper/pdf document to a more transparent, user-friendly, interactive, and updateable format was really important to us to create a more effective and goal-oriented strategy,” says Katie Kinka, SAP&DC’s former Community & Economic Development Program Manager.  With the support of the planning firm Urban Partners and through in-house GIS mapping, SAP&DC unveiled an online, interactive CEDS platform for its 2015 – 2019 CEDS, “Advancing the Alleghenies: Engaging Communities to Foster Regional Economic Opportunity.”

“We had been trying to get away from a traditional document that will just sit on the shelf,” says Lindsay Pyle, current SAP&DC Community & Economic Development Program Manager.  “We were hesitant at first moving to an online format and not sure if the counties would accept it.  However, they have really embraced this new model,” she says.  The online CEDS has helped to increase the readability, user-friendliness, and transparency of the CEDS and enables staff to update the website with new data, resources, and information about projects and other initiatives.  This approach “has been vital in seamlessly sharing important content, particularly with those less familiar with the CEDS process and regional economic development,” notes Kinka.

Visitors to SAP&DC’s online CEDS are able to explore all the key components of the CEDS through easy-to-use navigation tools and drop-down menus.  Useful maps, infographics, charts, and tables help users better understand key data and information.  The four key regional goals identified through the CEDS process – diversifying the economy, maintaining and modernizing infrastructure, making communities more attractive to younger families, and growing local agriculture-related businesses – all have their own dedicated pages with key information and objectives.  Contact boxes on the pages allow users to quickly get in touch with SAP&DC staff to share ideas, offer suggestions, and ask questions about planned or potential initiatives.  The website also offers the CEDS plan in its traditional form as a PDF to download, therefore providing a variety of ways for the public to access this information.

Visitors to SAP&DC’s online CEDS site are able to explore all the key components of the CEDS through easy-to-use navigation tools, drop-down menus, and useful maps, infographics, charts, tables that can help users better understand key data and information.
Above:  Screenshots from SAP&DC’s online CEDS.  Visitors to the site are able to explore all the key components of the CEDS through easy-to-use navigation tools, drop-down menus, infographics, and more that can help users better understand key data and information.

An interview with Lindsay Pyle,
SAP&DC Community and Economic Development Program Manager:

What does the CEDS mean to your region? How has it helped shape the conversation about regional economic development?

The Southern Alleghenies Planning and Development Commission (SAP&DC) completed its most recent CEDS in 2015. It serves as a road map to public and private sector planning and investments to diversify and strengthen our regional economy. By having this strategy document in place, we as a region can prioritize state and federal investments where they’re needed the most. This has helped to shape the region by giving leaders a detailed road map of what is needed in the area and what direction to take.

How have you incorporated the concept of resilience into your CEDS?

Within our region, employment is heavily concentrated in four different sectors. Some of these sectors have experienced significant job losses in the region since 2003 which poses a threat within our community. The most significant job losses were in the manufacturing industry. The biggest sectors to decline were in professional services, finances and insurance, and wholesale trade. To maintain the resiliency of our community, employment must be expanded and diversified, especially in higher wage sectors.

What ways have you developed and nurtured partnerships with both traditional partners and underrepresented groups?

SAP&DC has had long standing partnerships with many groups across our six-county region. Since the CEDS was completed, we have expanded those partnerships, working with even the smallest of grass-roots level groups while also helping our counties to develop new groups. Having strong partnerships is an important factor in the success of the projects.

How have you taken your CEDS process from planning to implementation? Any strong examples?

When the CEDS plan was being developed, implementation was our main focus throughout the entire planning stage. We wanted to keep projects realistic and beneficial for each of our counties, and to date we have accomplished countless projects in each of our four goals. For example, Goal 4 was to “Support the Growth of Local Agricultural-Related Businesses.” Since the CEDS was released, SAP&DC, along with partners such as the Greater Johnstown Career and Technology Center, Somerset Trust, the Community Foundation for the Alleghenies, and Penn State Extension Office, collaborated in order to create a shared-use kitchen at an under-utilized facility. This shared-use kitchen is called the “Field-to-Fork Agricultural Incubator” and is for farmers and food entrepreneurs to utilize for small-scale runs of value-added products. This kitchen is extremely affordable and close to home so the amount of travel is less, and the cost of creating the product is also less, giving the farmer more profit.

Click to download a PDF of the South Alleghenies Region 2015-2019 CEDS
Click to download a PDF of the Southern Alleghenies Region 2015-2019 CEDS

You can access SAP&DC’s online CEDS here and download a PDF of the CEDS here.

Want to learn more about how SAP&DC developed their online CEDS platform?  Contact Program Manager Lindsay Pyle at:  [email protected] or 814.949.6510.

Click here to access additional case studies in the CEDS Spotlight series

Do you have a best practice or innovative approach to developing, designing, and implementing the CEDS?  Contact NADO RF Program Manager Brett Schwartz at  [email protected].

This case studies series is presented through NADO’s Stronger CEDS, Stronger Regions program, funded through a generous grant from the US Economic Development Administration.

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