A local government-nonprofit collaborative has announced the completion of a Herkimer County-wide community development plan that will address the county’s longstanding challenges and future growth opportunities. Under the plan, a nonprofit called Herkimer County Community Development Partnership will be created to formalize collaborative efforts needed to address economic challenges, while connecting and encouraging innovation in thriving but disconnected points of growth county-wide.
“This plan continues the cooperation we’ve seen across local governments and builds on recent economic development successes, and it also addresses head-on the challenges we face across the county as we work together to make a great place to live and work even better,” said Jim Bono, Herkimer County Legislature Chairman. “With this plan as a blueprint, we can tackle challenges and celebrate accomplishments in a coordinated way—attracting public and private investment that cuts across local government lines and addresses common needs across the county.”
A county-wide steering committee of local government, business and higher education leaders, chaired by Little Falls Mayor Mark Blask, worked with consultant Fairweather Consulting of New Paltz as it engaged with a broad range of constituents. Using a variety of in-person and virtual events, tactics and tools, the process probed the county’s strengths, weaknesses, and residents’ vision for the future, which they described as six themes:
Vital Villages & Main Streets Authentic & Sustainable Places
Healthy, Affordable & Livable Communities Diverse Recreation, Cultural & Social Activities
Thriving Economy & Economic Opportunity Engaged, Informed & Inclusive Culture
To work toward that vision, the plan recommends a focus on government, business and nonprofit collaboration and connectivity, economic and agribusiness development, and tourism, supporting and complementing long-term development across the county.
“We all know that our entire county is rich in tourism assets and offers a lot to our heritage businesses as well as outside companies seeking to relocate here,” Blask said. “This plan gives us a framework for sustained collaboration across municipal boundaries and will strengthen our identity as a tourism destination and as a place that's open for business.”
Herkimer County will hire a community coordinator to advance cross-governmental collaboration as a first step toward creation of the recommended community development partnership. A website that launched as part of the planning process, itshappeninginherkimer.org, will also be utilized as the strategy moves forward. With individual municipal efforts needed to support the overall plan, the Village of Herkimer has announced that it will engage a consultant to create a 10-year village-specific vision that complements the county-wide collaboration.
“We are thrilled that this partnership is moving forward to build a better future for all of Herkimer County,” said Alicia Fernandez Dicks, president/CEO of the Community Foundation of Herkimer and Oneida Counties, which helped coalesce and fund the process. “This kind of collaboration on a county-wide basis should serve as a model for others, an example of how local governments, business, nonprofits—all sectors—can work together for the greater good.”