Putting the Numbers in Context
Numbers Don't Tell the Whole Story
Ashtabula County has many strengths as a place to live, work, and play. The county offers a competitive location for businesses of all types, including manufacturing, agribusiness, tourism, and services. Tourism has seen significant growth in the past decade. The county offers an attractive and affordable place to live for people of all generations.
In an overall sense, Ashtabula County has been holding its own in terms of economic and community development. As numbers often fail to do, Ashtabula County's economic and demographic numbers don't tell the whole story of the county's progress and successes. Similarly, Cleveland and Cuyahoga County's numbers do not tell these places' story of progress and success. From this standpoint, the quantitative realities shown on the dashboard are not the whole story: Much progress is being made by countywide and community economic development leaders.
Putting the Numbers in Action Context
Ashtabula County's economic and population bases have been in transition over the past quarter century. The dashboard is a valuable tool to help local private and public sector leaders and citizens understand the county's economic and community realities. Also, the dashboard is a tool to help the county's many economic and community development organizations determine what impact they are having individually and collectively on these challenges, and how they can increase their impact by working together in the future.
A wide variety of factors, interacting over a long period of time, have created the economic and community conditions existing in Ashtabula County. Accurate factual information about local conditions and organizational activities can enable people to work together more effectively on shared priorities and increase their "collective impact."
Ashtabula County must build the right private-public team to tackle five key economic and community development priorities to create a better future for the county:
1. Strengthen Local Business and Industry Growth Factors: The growth of existing companies requires a competitive and productive workforce, professional talent, quality sites and buildings, infrastructure and utility services, access to growth financing, a pro-business climate, and other advanatges. Ashtabula County is working to strengthen its resource base for economic development. These same factors are important in attracting new companies. In addition, we need to homegrow the next generation of companies in the county, which requires a strengthened entrepreneurial climate. This too is a major priority of the Growth Partnership and its partners.
2. Build Greater Regional Connectivity: We must work to build greater connectivity with our surrounding counties and regional partners in Greater Cleveland and Youngstown. These connections are important to expanding labor market commuting patterns, that is attracting skilled workers and talent to the county, and to accessing new regional consumer and business, and tourism market opportunities.
3. Invest in Strategic Assets and Opportunities: Ashtabula County must continue to build its image and attract more development resources from regional, state, and national sources to make the county more competitive for development in its target industry sectors and growth businesses niches. The new Grand River Branding Initiative by Ashtabual and Lake Counties will help. Key Ashtabula County assets include Lake Erie, the I-90 corridor, abundant water suppy, local shipping ports, local wineries and natural resource base, the SPIRE Institute, and an abundant land supply. The County's key development opportunities include manufacturing, especially plastics and chemicals, healthcare businesses, agribusiness, tourism, and supply chain businesses to these industries.
4. Infrastructure Expansion: As a predominantly rural county with a very large geographic service area, infrastructure capacity is limited in parts of the county from the standpoint of water and sewer service, electric and gas utilities, and high-speed Internet services. We are working to overcome these constraints to spark economic and community development in the county. A future long-term countywide capital investment strategy could help in the future in prioritizing future infrastructure investments.
5. Build Quality of Place: Ashtabula County is a good place to live. We need to capitalize on our living in the county advantages by building new housing for executives and young professionals. Future efforts to encourage new home building by local and regional home builders will be intensified. Equally important, stepped up efforts to redevelop attractive high-potential neighborhoods in local communities will help keep and attract new talent to the county. The Civic Development Corporation's (CDC's) new campaign will invest in several important quality of life improvements.