Council discusses 2018 milestones
EAST WHITELAND >> The Chester County Economic Development Council updated stakeholders and investors Nov. 14 on key economic development milestones from fiscal year 2017-18.
The work of the Chester County Economic Development Council (CCEDC) is supported by more than 230 investors from organizations that range from startups to Fortune 500 companies. More than 150 business leaders attended the council’s Annual Stakeholder’s Meeting at the Desmond Hotel.
The annual meeting is meant to inform the agency’s stakeholders about its achievements in developing the county’s economy and workforce development.
It’s also a time to say thank you.
“We appreciate your treasure of investment in this organization. We thank you for your wisdom, your guidance, your time,” Gary Smith, president and CEO of the Chester County Economic Development Council said in his opening remarks. “You come in with all kinds of professional backgrounds and experiences and you give that back to us to make this organization better.”
Smith outlined the main areas of focus for the organization: financing solutions, location services, innovation and workforce development.
“A basic part of what we do is really taking care of others,” Smith said, adding that economic development isn’t just about bringing in big headline stories — a reference to Amazon’s announcement this week of its second headquarters location. “It is growing and taking care of and nurturing the people we have in our community.”
Some highlights of the Chester County Economic Development Council’s milestones for fiscal year 2017-2018 include:
• Financing of more than $16 million for 19 projects to grow local business and create jobs for local workforce
• $9.6 million in tax exempt financing
• $9.7 million in total grant project funding
• $1.2 million in Keystone Innovation Zone (KIZ) tax credits for emerging growth companies
• $23 million spent by Chester County Economic Development Council’s network of i2n companies on research, development and testing
• More than $500,000 in grant support for incumbent worker training and a new STEM Innovation approach to serving local youth
• Collaboration on 18 economic development projects throughout Chester County.
“Financing remains the foundation of CCEDC services,” Smith said. “We use a variety of grant and loan programs to meet the needs of our clients and to get projects across the finish line.”
Attendees heard from two business leaders who worked with the council on financing solutions.
Dave Foreman is CEO of Ice Line, an ice skating arena in West Goshen that wanted to expand its facility by adding a 10,000 square foot restaurant and bar, but needed some help to get it done.
“We were able to get backing through Seedcopa, which gave us the funding,” Foreman said. “It allowed the commercial banker to get on board and get comfortable and fulfill the lending requirements.”
Foreman added that Ice Line is now positioned, “where we want to be.”
Angela O’Brien, owner of iSwich Gourmet Inc. started her company in a 430 square foot space. Once she got a contract with Longwood Gardens to sell her gourmet ice cream sandwiches, she quickly needed more space.
She said Seedcopa and Phoenixville Federal partnered to enable her to move into a 3,000 square foot facility.
“Now I have the storage I need so I can make some things in advance, so the seasonality is not as big a crunch in June and July,” she said. “I can also start to look at regional and national accounts.”
Derek Strine, of Penn Hurst Holdings worked with the Chester County Economic Development Council on location services, receiving a $10 million grant/loan from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania for remediation and transformation of the 120-acre former Pennhurst State Hospital into a mixeduse commercial and industrial site.
Strine said he met with representatives from the Chester County Economic Development Council, and within about an hour, “they had identified 30-40 resources we could pursue.”
“We expect in Q1 or Q2, to have remediation and demolition on the first building,” he said.
Highlighting innovation, Pattie Diggin, director of the Cottrell Entrepreneurial Leadership Center at West Chester University talked about the first TechStars Weekend, which was held at the university in June.
Sixty-five participants spent a full weekend developing their business ideas with the help of coaches and mentors. On the final day, they pitched their ideas to a panel of judges.
Diggin said there will be a second TechStars weekend in 2019, hosted by Penn State Great Valley in partnership with West Chester University and the Cottrell Center.
Workforce development has been a major focus of the Chester County Economic Development Council, with more than 6,900 attendees at council workforce events from 975 organizations. In addition, more than 4,300 youth participated in Chester County Economic Development Council career exploration activities.
Three of those students: Tyler Mansmann, Dylan Smoot and Rachel Dwyer talked about how their experiences with the Youth Career Academies solidified their plans for college.
“We know that the growth and success of companies in Chester County depends on the talent and availability of a qualified workforce. The council strongly believes that workforce development is economic development,” said Michael L. Grigalonis, Chester County Economic Development Council’s chief operating officer and executive vice president.
Launched in 2014, VISTA 2025 is a 10-year economic development strategy — a collaboration between Chester County and the Chester County Economic Development Council. Chester County Commissioner Michelle Kichline, who is co-chairman of the initiative, gave a brief progress report at the breakfast.
“Chester County’s success can be measured in so many ways because we plan for our future, we invest in our future and we work hard to make that future happen,” said Kichline. “VISTA 2025 is a great example of how having an overall strategy, with specific goals that are followed by both the public and private sector, can help us to keep Chester County the vibrant, beautiful and progressive place that it is.”
Additional details about VISTA 2025 are scheduled to be released Nov. 16.
A complete copy of the Chester County Economic Development Council’s 2017-2018 Annual Report is available online at http://
The Chester County Economic Development Council released its economic development milestones for fiscal year 20172018 at the Desmond Hotel in East Whiteland. More than 150 local business leaders attended the event.