This week, May 8 through May 13, is International Economic Development Week, which makes it the perfect time to address a question we here at the Cayuga Economic Development Agency (CEDA) get all the time: “What really is economic development?” A very valid question. In the case of CEDA, our mission is “To foster a sustainable quality of life in Cayuga County through job retention, expansion, and attraction”. We want to create a sustainable economy that contributes to a vibrant community.

In practice, we provide entrepreneurs and existing businesses with easy access to all of the information, incentives and resources needed to move to, start or grow in Cayuga County. This could mean anything from helping Aurora Shoe Company access funding for their building expansion and resources to improve their exporting process, to assisting Mike and Pam Parks of LB Lightning Cyclery with their business plan and finding a location.  Furthermore, CEDA Board member Kelly O’Hara of Oakwood Dairy approaches economic development from a decision-making perspective: “Anticipating the increased need for technology-based services to process, market, and distribute agricultural goods produced within the Central New York Region has motivated me to be engaged in economic development.” As these and other examples show, CEDA provides a suite of incentives, resources, and opportunities by collaborating with private and public sector organizations locally and regionally. Some of these partnerships include the Cayuga County Industrial Development Agency, the Auburn Industrial Development Authority, the City of Auburn and Cayuga County offices of Planning and Economic Development, and the Central New York Regional Economic Development Council, just to name a few. Each of these partners provides a different opportunity for businesses.

Kelley Gridley of Tompkins Trust Company sees how these collaborations impact our community: “I have served on the CEDA Board for several years and have recently been encouraged by the ‘re-awakening’ of downtown Auburn with people living and playing locally. The more business we can attract and retain in Cayuga County, the more jobs created, enticing residents to not only remain in the area, but also to buy locally. CEDA has played an important role in assisting many local businesses access funds through CNYREDC program- these funds have been critical to the growth of many local businesses, contributing to the momentum and fueling the interest in economic development altogether.”

Echoing Kelley’s sentiments, Cynthia Aikman (small business owner, investor, CEDA Board member, and self-proclaimed ‘economic development enthusiast’) stresses that all of us play a role in economic development nearly every day. “With EVERY purchase residents of our county make, we are participating in our economy.  The more we source our needs locally, the more suppliers and choices we have and the more valuable our investments become.” By choosing to participate in the Cayuga County economy, residents and visitors are contributing to the vibrancy and viability of our community.

Quality of life is an important component of economic development. As important as it is to have work for people, it’s also important that people want to live here. To highlight this point, CEDA, in collaboration with Leadership Cayuga and Cayuga Community College School of Media Arts student Juliette Zygarowicz, has produced a video that communicates the importance of this balance. The video includes several interviews with residents who paint a picture of what it’s like to “live, work and play” in Cayuga County. The goal is to show individuals and businesses that might be considering a move to Cayuga County that it really is the full package.

Created by the International Economic Development Council, the goal of Economic Development Week is to “increase awareness for local programs that create jobs, advance career development opportunities and increase quality of life”.  That means it’s not just about CEDA. There are a plethora of organizations throughout Cayuga County that also participate in economic development efforts, even if it isn’t their primary mission. Think the Cayuga County Chamber of Commerce, Auburn Downtown BID, educational institutions, municipalities (the County, City of Auburn, towns, and villages), arts and cultural organizations, and workforce development providers, among many others. They all play a role in making Cayuga County a better place to live and for businesses to operate and create jobs, which in theory increases incomes and broadens the tax base. These things, in a nut shell, are what economic development is all about.

Tracy Verrier is Executive Director of Cayuga Economic Development Agency and the Cayuga County Chamber of Commerce.