A new partnership among the Community Foundation of Switzerland County; Switzerland County Economic Development; and the Switzerland County Commissioners and Council hopes to improve short-term and long-term job growth here.
The 10-year agreement will bring together a broad range of local entities and coordinate the programs
“Our goal is to jointly work on the economic development and education to try and get the education base and the training base that is needed to employ our citizens, and hopefully in turn entice smaller businesses to move to the community,” Pam Acton of the Community Foundation said. “The number one thing Jon (Bond, President of the Switzerland County Economic Development Corporation) hears is that we don’t have the trained, educated base here. Other places have better training bases, and they can entice them.”
Acton said that this is a continuation of the Ec015 program that the county participated in in the past, but there won’t be the restrictions on the new initiative that were there before.
“Now we’re back to ‘let’s take care of ourselves’,” Acton said. “Some of what was created will continue. We’ll evaluate everything, so we want to keep things going, but we don’t want to be locked into just college classes or whatever. We want to see what is needed around here. What trends that Jon sees coming down the pike and maybe get ahead of the game – we don’t know.”
Acton said that the county needs help with grant writing for infrastructure, for example; so the hope is that by coordinating all of the efforts that have been going on and those which groups hope to start; that the overall effort to raise education and training, and through that bring jobs here – will be successful.
All three groups will be putting equal shares of money into the agreement, and that will be used initially to seek and hire a Workforce Education Coordinator and Grant Writer. That person will be an employee of the Community Foundation of Switzerland County; but will work under the guidance of the committee to coordinate efforts.
“We hope to bring this person on board, and then they can begin to lead the way to find and apply for and hopefully get grants that we will need to do the things that we want to do,” Acton said.
The new program is not solely aimed at adult education; but Acton said that the goal is to enhance any type of education – both formal and non-formal – that will help make the county and its residents more marketable to potential companies and industry.
“If we find that there’s something that we can partner with the schools, we will do that,” Acton said. “But not just formal types of education. If there’s something fun that people want to learn. One of the things that we’ve been hearing about is a ‘Maker’s Market’, where you have an area and there are tools and other things available that individuals may need to complete projects or develop talents that will lead to economic growth. One of the things that I’ve heard about is that there may be somebody over here working on quilting, and they’re drawing and trying to figure out the pattern and stuff; and you’ve got somebody over here that knows how to use a 3-D printer; and you’ve got somebody over here that knows how to do CAD-CAM. Then they all start working together. It’s not an organized something; it’s because people know each other exist. We’ve looked into some version of that. We want to find ways to facilitate information.”
Acton said that the group plans on utilizing the TEC Building on Seminary Street in Vevay because it’s already set up for classes and other activities; but said that if there are other programs that are best held in other locations around the county so that it is easier for people to attend, then the classes will go to the people.
Acton said that the first step is to get a coordinator on board who has the enthusiasm needed to get individuals and groups excited about moving forward.
“I see pulling different people in the community together for different things,” she said. “This person can be the spearhead, but it’s going to take them awhile to get around, meet people, pick brains. We are just getting started, but it’s a program that all three entities are committed to for the long term, which is why the partnership is initially for 10 years. We want to eventually look at what are some of the training needs of the non-profits? We do that on a small scale, maybe we can get a little more organized. If there’s businesses in town that have like needs, let’s get them a little more organized and see what the entire community needs and see if we can grow through this program.”