A Celebration of National Economic Development Week

A celebration of National Economic Development Week

  • By Sara Marrs-Maxfield

  • May 6, 2018



May 7-12 has been designated as National Economic Development Week by the International Economic Development Council. This celebration was created in 2016 to increase awareness of local programs that create jobs, advance career development opportunities and increase the quality of life.

This year, we at the Athens County Economic Development Council decided to join an estimated 100 communities in recognizing and celebrating all the exciting things that are happening, that contribute to economic progress in our region.

Over the past 10 years as an economic development professional, I have learned that everyone has an interest in economic development and there are many different perspectives on what it really is. A former colleague of mine often said, “You can label just about anything as economic development, because it means different things to different people”. No truer words have ever been spoken.

One of the biggest challenges of my job is making sure that the projects we are taking on align with our mission. I have to say “no” more often than I’d like to, and it’s the hardest part of the job. However, the strength of our community lies in the many wonderful partnerships that exist among all the entities that do various type of economic development work in Athens County and beyond.

We have a wealth of community organizations that offer specific expertise and various resources. We have ACEnet , a nationally recognized Food Venture Center that offers expertise and services to entrepreneurs; Rural Action with its focus on asset based economic development and social enterprises; and a robust tourism bureau that continues to foster the growth of tourism businesses and the retail/restaurant sectors. All these organizations and many others not mentioned are important pieces of our economic development ecosystem.

At the EDC, we focus on creating an environment in which our existing businesses can grow and expand, creating quality jobs for our citizens. We also work to find opportunities to attract new businesses to our region that will be a good fit for our communities and will provide jobs that promise a livable wage. This means that our office is often working on securing funding for infrastructure projects, site development and workforce training.

Currently, we are working on a project to identify gaps in broadband access and create strategies to address the many challenges associated with rural deployment. We understand that access to broadband effects our economic opportunities. It is imperative for education, employee training, global competitiveness, research and development, and a healthy workforce.

The ACEDC recently completed an Economic Strategic Plan for Athens County, in which we set rather lofty goals. Within five years we should add 2500 new jobs, cut the child poverty rate by 5 points and increase the per capita income by 15 percent. No single organization can do this alone. It will require organizations, institutions, elected officials, foundations, and state and federal programs to work together to reach these goals.

I hope that you enjoy learning more about economic development this week as ACEDC provides insight through a series of articles in The Athens Messenger.

The Athens County Economic Development Council is a 501c3 public-private partnership with the mission to be a catalyst for quality jobs and progress in Athens County and throughout the region by creating a seamless network of economic development resources through partnerships with government, business and nonprofit organization.