Chester County to Chart its Economic Future

By: Bob Carville, Daily Local News

February 6th, 2015

More than 40 Chester County businesses, health care and educational institutions and non-profit organizations Thursday joined Chester County Commissioners to launch what organizers say is a unique public-private partnership.

The goal is to help guide economic development efforts in Chester County for the next 10 years.

The guiding philosophy of initiative, VISTA 2025, will be “to maintain a balance between progress and preservation that ensures continued economic prosperity while protecting the valuable natural resources that define Chester County,” a news release from the Chester County Economic Development Council says.

Officials said the effort dovetails with the county’s comprehensive land-use plan, Landscapes II, which calls on civic leaders to develop an over-arching economic vision for the county to prosper while preserving its endearing characteristics. It addresses growth management and preservation strategies in collaboration with public, private and corporate citizens.

“VISTA 2025 seeks to maintain and build upon Chester County’s position as one of the leading counties in the country in areas such as best place to raise a family, health of its citizens, household income, low unemployment, and a range of other demographic and economic data,” the news release explains. “The last few decades have seen the emergence of a strong, vibrant and diversified Chester County economy, an economy that VISTA 2025 seeks to maintain in the future. That economy has brought family sustaining jobs to the County and provided the resources needed to support a high quality of life in terms of open space preservation and other amenities.”

Commissioners’ Chairman Ryan Costello attended Thursday’s news briefing for the partnership he will co-chair. The name VISTA 2025 was selected because it serves as an acronym for the elements of the strategy process: Vision, Ideas, Strategy, Teams, Actions. The word vista also describes a view of the distance, in this case looking and planning for the future of Chester County’s economy, organizers say.

“VISTA 2025 will enable us to put in place a coordinated strategy to maintain a strong county economy now and in the future, while ensuring we preserve the natural resources that make Chester County such an attractive location to live, work, and operate a business,” Costello wrote in a news release.

“Chester County is ranked as the No. 1 county in Pennsylvania in a number of areas, including the health of our residents, percentage of residents with bachelor’s and graduate degrees, median household income, and wages. Our goal is to take advantage of the opportunity to build on our competitive strengths, identify emerging economic trends, and renew our focus on work force development efforts in key sectors to enhance continued economic growth in Chester County.”

The VISTA 2025 initiative is being coordinated by the Chester County Economic Development Council, a private, nonprofit, economic development organization promoting smart growth in Chester County and the surrounding region. To help guide the process the council has hired TIP Strategies, a nationally recognized consulting firm that focuses on strategic economic development planning. The project is being funded through a combination of public and private contributions.

Tom Fillippo, president of Devault Foods, is also a VISTA 2025 co-chair.

“This is an exciting opportunity where the private and public sector are working together toward a common goal of ensuring Chester County has a strong economy represented by diverse sectors that will enable the region to withstand economic downturns and events that may impact specific sectors,” Fillippo wrote. “This is not just about maintaining Chester County’s high rankings in various economic areas, it is also about positioning the county for the future.”

Organizers say VISTA 2025 will:

  • examine trends that are likely to impact Chester County’s economy in the next decade;
  • identify opportunities and strategies to leverage the county’s many significant assets;
  • identify locations for future economic development;
  • determine incentives and tools that would assist with attracting investment;
  • examine existing policies or regulations that may create barriers to desired growth; and
  • look at how Chester County can best manage its existing talent and work force skills.

Community input is an integral part of the process and will be generated through out the preparation of the economic development strategy, organizers said. Key business, agricultural and nonprofit sectors will be solicited for input and views through a series of targeted focus groups.

As information, opinions, and data are collected and analyzed, the public will have opportunities to comment on draft recommendations on the VISTA 2025 economic development strategy.

In addition, a VISTA 2025 Website will be established to share updates with and solicit input from the public and stakeholders. Primary work on the VISTA 2025 economic development strategy will take place over the spring and early summer 2014 with an anticipated completion in mid to late summer.