CLARION – The Clarion County Economic Development Corporation has its eyes to the future with the help of a grant from the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development.

As one of six municipal projects throughout the state, the Clarion County Economic Development Corporation (CCEDC) will receive $17,500 of the $228,000 in Municipal Assistance Program (MAP) funding grants that were announced earlier this month by Gov. Tom Wolf.

MAP funding is awarded to assist local governments with planning for zoning, coordinating emergency services and creating comprehensive plans, according to a press release issued by the governor’s office.

“The Clarion County Economic Development Corporation is thrilled to have been awarded funding through the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development’s Municipal Assistance Program,” CCEDC executive director Shannon Barrios said last week. “The CCEDC is grateful to Gov. Wolf and the DCED for recognizing the value of our strategic planning efforts and continuing to champion Clarion County.”

“The $17,500 grant will be used to fund Phases III and IV of our ‘Clarion 2030,’ a 10-year economic development strategy,” she continued. Working with Delta Development Group, a consulting firm specializing in economic development and community planning, strategic planning for the project began in early 2020.

According to Barrios, Phase I of Clarion 2030 was completed in the spring and provided an “economic profile of Clarion County,” including detailed analyses of local demographics, lifestyle elements, infrastructure, education, real estate, taxation, industry sectors and workforce.

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When the COVID-19 pandemic hit this spring, bringing with it “unprecedented economic and social disruption,” Barrios said the CCEDC recognized the importance of having “an executable plan of action” early on.

“As our local communities faced unimaginable uncertainties and hardships, we wanted to understand the quantifiable effects the international pandemic was having on our local economy,” she said. Barrios noted that with the help of Delta and input from local government leadership, the CCEDC shifted its focus to create a Clarion County COVID-19 Economic Recovery Strategy, which includes collaborations with the Clarion Chamber of Business & Industry, the Clarion University Small Business Development Center, the Clarion County Industrial Development Authority, Clarion University and the Riverview Intermediate Unit 6. “This date-driven plan examines the adverse economic effects of the pandemic, while offering specific and actionable steps to proactively respond to the current economic situation and posture ourselves for recovery and continued advancement.”

That recovery strategy, Barrios said, turned into Phase II of the overall “Clarion 2030” project.

Currently underway, Phases III and IV of Clarion County’s economic development plan will complete the CCEDC’s decade-long strategic planning efforts by “finalizing a long-term strategic plan that contains branding initiatives, an outline for growth and development, a specific assessment of funding sources for expansion projects, an analysis of Clarion County’s competitive advantages and an action plan for leveraging opportunities” in the county and region.

“I believe that vision toward the future is paramount to success in any arena, and particularly in this current season of challenge and uncertainty, it is vital that we not only address the obstacles that confront us, but plan proactively toward building a bright future for our children,” Barrios said, pointing out that the goal of economic development is to foster thriving communities. “’Clarion 2030’ is a tool that will catalyze advancement by providing local leaders from across the public and private sectors with an actionable plan that together we can execute to capitalize on the unique greatness of Clarion County.”

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