Economic development vital for Aberdeen

During the visiting teams time in Aberdeen, they talked with many different groups within the community asking for information about Aberdeen. Questions asked included what they liked and didn’t like for each focus group. A big concern was the closing of Simplot’s because it contributed economic growth to the community. One of the first things told to the community members who attended the meetings during the community review, was not to focus on Simplot. In order for economic development to happen everyone must do their part.

In the community review report, they give suggestions, recommendations and resources to help bring prosperity to Aberdeen despite Simplot. Don’t stop at the edge of town. You have assets in neighboring communities that may be helpful.

Jon Barrett of the visiting team with Mike Field visited Aberdeen to review the report with the Mayor, city council and residents of Aberdeen. He gave an overview of the report and explained how the report was written. The city council picked three major areas on which to focus their attention. These were economic development, infrastructure and downtown revitalization. The visiting team chose a fourth focus area because it was discussed extensively at the meetings. It was about community involvement and civic life. Economic development is the focus of this article.

The team identified four main opportunity areas for economic development.

Area one involves better communication of what Aberdeen’s identity and brand is. Who are we, what do we offer, and what makes Aberdeen unique? We need to let people know why they should come to Aberdeen, future residents and visitors alike. We need to have something that shows the possibilities of entertainment, nature and shopping.

Some of the recommendations in the report include:

* creating an Aberdeen Ambassador program

* enlist residents (youth or adult) to create a heritage tourism map or booklet that describes important places, people, visitor services and attractions

* improve welcome to Aberdeen signage

* use social media to get awareness of Aberdeen out

Opportunity area two is about creating connections between existing businesses. Better communication between business owners of all nationalities would decrease the division among residents. All members of the community should have equal opportunity to grow their businesses.

Some suggestions were:

* encourage greater coordination and communication to avoid duplication

* build chamber membership by reaching out to all businesses

* create a business directory

* establish a forum for communication

Opportunity area three focused on connecting education to business and employment. Some businesses already give students opportunities to work for them to learn new skills. However, is there ways to increase job opportunity awareness for students in the high school or other residents in the community. One of the suggestions was to have businesses partner with the High School to develop after hours training opportunities. Our high school currently has a program for students to intern for one hour of class time to learn skills at a business. Other recommendations include:

* work with the University of Idaho extension center to create internships through service or other learning opportunities

* have workforce training funds which help train for a variety of jobs

* explore creation of a community funded entrepreneurial and educational meeting place

Opportunity area four is about supporting the expansion of existing businesses and entrepreneurs who want to start new businesses. The visiting teams felt that existing businesses should be supported and the creation of new business should be encouraged. Partnering with American Falls to identify things the City administration and community in general can do to create a positive, entrepreneruial business environment In Aberdeen is one suggestion. Others include:

* develop a business retention and expansion program

* complete an inventory of commercial and industrial properties within Aberdeen

* establish a new business mentoring program

We, the residents of Aberdeen and the city administration need to work together to bring about change in Aberdeen. Many Eagle Scout projects could come from the suggestions but service needs to be a community affair. Do you have a skill that others may not have? Would you be willing to share it with another community member?

We have so many people in Aberdeen that give of their time and talents. Thank you for your service.

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