SEDA-Council of Governments (SEDA-COG) has earned two 2017 Innovation awards from the National Association of Development Organizations (NADO) Research Foundation.
Each year, the Innovation Awards program honors NADO members for their creative approaches to advancing regional community and economic development and improved quality of life. These projects have made significant impacts on their regions and demonstrate the diversity of services and program delivery provided by regional development organizations across the country. The 2017 award recipients consist of 80 projects spanning 21 states.
SEDA-COG’s awarded areas are for economic development in a coal-impacted region and flood mitigation and resiliency planning.
ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT FOR COAL REGION
SEDA-COG has been leading efforts around a five-county economic diversification strategy that is multi-faceted and whose centerpiece is the Anthracite Outdoor Adventure Area (AOAA), a 6,500-acre motorized and non-motorized recreation facility. Through SEDA-COG’s leadership, several partner groups have been working together to expand and market this unique and innovative project to become a driving economic force in the surrounding region.
The AOAA project is expected to drive 12,000 new visitors annually to the area, generate over $18 million in tourism revenue, and create 26 jobs.
The AOAA project focuses on Columbia, Montour, Northumberland, Snyder, and Union counties whose economies were damaged due to job loss in the coal-related industry. Efforts are concentrating on marketing outdoor recreation and tourism as an economic engine to replace a portion of the economy lost by coal impacts. The Susquehanna River Valley and the Columbia-Montour visitors’ bureaus that cover the five-county area are working to promote the AOAA as a national destination.
Northumberland County, located in the central part of Pennsylvania, created the AOAA and helped move it forward with investments to help with the planning and marketing of the facility.
The project impacts a five-county region. The AOAA is located in five municipalities in Northumberland County: Mount Carmel, Coal, Zerbe, East Cameron, and West Cameron townships. The gateway to the main trail head goes through the City of Shamokin.
The AOAA officially opened in May 2014 after the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) partnered with the county on two prior projects with the goal to reuse abandoned coal mine land to create a safe, outdoor adventure area. In 2011, SEDA-COG worked with Coal Township and Northumberland County to submit an application to ARC for $300,000 to construct a .3-mile access road that connected the AOAA Trailhead to State Route 125. In 2013, SEDA-COG worked with AOAA to apply for $50,000 in ARC funding for technology to be used at the park that would provide an economic opportunity to link existing and new businesses with the AOAA including overnight accommodations, gas stations, restaurants, and more.
As part of the project, facility campground infrastructure will be constructed, creating six new jobs, and 15 miles of trails will be built.
The most recent ARC grant for AOAA was awarded to SEDA-COG and will be used to position reclaimed mine land as a national destination for regional outdoor tourism. The grant will help the county to become an economic driver for the area by funding better cellular and broadband service for emergency and business communications. Increased visitors to the region will stimulate the area’s economy and can generate entrepreneurial activities. The Bucknell University Small Business Development Center will help potential entrepreneurs by offering training workshops in the five-county area, consulting services, materials, and marketing assistance.
Flood Mitigation and Resiliency Planning
SEDA-COG has begun an education and training process that helps municipalities find solutions to flood-related issues, and a process that proposes to redistribute a portion of the federal savings to preserve local riverine communities.
The completion of this initiative will allow SEDA-COG to examine legislative solutions to riverine flood insurance reform with local, state, and federal officials.
Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) and Keystone Communities Program (KCP) grants are funding the completion of a planning process to develop a self-help assessment tool for several central Pennsylvania riverine communities. The assessment is aimed at assisting the municipality and its citizens in defining and designing flood resiliency strategies and to better implement those strategies.
The planning process was tested in the pilot community of Selinsgrove Borough and is being replicated in five additional communities to include the boroughs of Milton, Danville, Newport, and Lewisburg; and the Town of Bloomsburg.
Specific project activities include public meetings to educate and increase awareness about flood-impacts and flood insurance reform. The residents learn how to develop a response to these threats through a series of community working groups and data analysis.
The community teams gain an understanding of flood insurance reform and flood mitigation techniques through various industry leaders in each community. As a result of this empowering knowledge, the team meetings produce a compilation of financing options for future resiliency initiatives, the creation of early endeavors to be undertaken by the task force, and concepts for legislative consideration.
Additionally, SEDA-COG will assist each community with the creation of a flood task force committee, and members of this task force will be recommended to the local councils for approval. The task force committee members will vary from community to community, but may be comprised of citizens, insurance agents, real estate agents, and Council members.
SEDA-COG also has a contractual agreement with a professional services provider to provide discounted elevation certificates for citizens in these communities. The need for elevation certificates has become more important with the increase in flood insurance, particularly for Pre-FIRM structures with the enactment of the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act of 2012 and the Homeowner Affordability Act of 2014.
NADO is a Washington, DC-based association that promotes programs and policies that strengthen local governments, communities, and economies through regional cooperation, program delivery, and comprehensive strategies. The association’s Innovation Awards program recognizes regional development organizations and partnering organizations for improving the economic and community competitiveness of our nation’s regions and local communities.
The projects will be recognized at a special reception during NADO’s 2017 Annual Training Conference, scheduled for Sept. 9 to 12 in Anchorage, Alaska and will also be featured in an interactive online story map.