There’s a new economic development agency in town — the Portage Development Board — and with 5 months under its belt, I’ve watched the organization get its sea legs under it, get its toes pointed in the right direction, and put in some good mileage positioning the organization to be a player in the business of creating more jobs in Portage County.
The organizational premise is pretty straight forward — more jobs for Portage County — through partnering, collaborating, cooperating, leveraging and advocating the investment value of locating or expanding businesses in Portage County.
History has repeatedly shown that business investment tends to gravitate to those places that are well organized, that clearly communicate their business value, convey a sense of optimism and progress towards a shared vision, and perhaps most importantly, have a broad based team of local talent standing ready to be deployed to support emerging business opportunities. The Portage Development Board is committed to make Portage County one of those places, and they’ve got a line of people busy doing just that.
Like any new organization that tries to criss-cross political boundaries, there have been some early challenges to overcome. Not surprisingly there’s a fine line between home town pride and parochialism, especially with the economy tightening the reigns on job growth.
It’s natural for cities and towns to fight for every last morsel of job growth and it’s tough to tell a starving man that he needs to give some to get some — but that’s exactly what it will take to break out of the cycle of living hand to mouth for economic growth — and this is the right organization to tell that story.
As much as anything, the success of the Portage Development Board will be to de-politicize economic growth, putting business and community leaders side by side on the front lines of economic progress. I realize I work in a political industry and politics will always be a part of how we govern our communities, but that doesn’t mean you always want to lead with your politics — at least not when you are looking to foster a vital economic base with a sense of self sufficiency and sustainability.
The Portage Development Board business and institutional professionals have volunteered their time and leadership to give job growth in Portage County a chance to get some traction. This isn’t some new idea; it’s a business development model that’s proven to work all over the country, state of Ohio, and even within our region of northeast Ohio.
Portage County is in a position to be the tie that binds our many disparate towns, villages and cities and the Portage Development Board brings focus to that effort. As a Portage Development Board member I’m encouraged by the groundwork laid in the first 5 months and I look forward to the remainder of 2010 to see how far this group of motivated business leaders can climb in the name of Portage County.
Here’s a few of the organizational work products produced in the first couple of months of Portage Development Board’s existence. And don’t let yourself be jaded into thinking that this is another layer of bureaucracy because they produced a quarterly report and strategic plan framework — that’s just the first order of business as a new organization, their focus forward will always be what will it take to grow and attract more jobs, not plans and reports.