How can we develop economic growth in Humboldt County? What are our community’s priorities for local economic development? What are our strengths? Our weaknesses?
Those are just some of the questions Humboldt County’s economic development team will ask during a series of community meetings, or “roadshows,” over the coming weeks. (One of those meetings is happening tonight in Fortuna, more on that below.)
“We are intentionally starting this process by listening,” Allie Jones, marketing consultant for Illuminated Marketing, told the Outpost. “In order to create an effective and inclusive economic development strategy, we need to know what community members are experiencing, what their priorities are, and their insights on the strengths and weaknesses of our county.”
Your ideas will inform an update to the county’s Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS). The document, which is developed every five years as required by the Economic Development Administration (EDA), provides a framework to guide local economic prosperity and resiliency.
“This roadshow series isn’t just about the county going into the community and asking what they think, this is a requirement of the EDA and a part of our fiscal responsibility,” Humboldt County Economic Development Director Scott Adair told the Outpost. “This is an opportunity to be heard, to inform metrics and key performance indicators that will create economic policy and enable our county to qualify for grant funding that will enhance the livelihoods in our community.”
This is the first time the county has used the “community first” approach, Adair added. Historically, county staff has “focused on the wisdom and guidance of economic development professionals in the community” to inform the CEDS update.
“We decided to go to the community first because we don’t want to influence community feedback by frontloading the process with ideas and content from the experts,” he explained. “We want to know what the barista at the coffee shop or the grocery clerk thinks, then we will talk to the experts and see what they have to say.”
Jones acknowledged that “candid feedback and public engagement is messy [and] often full of strong emotions,” but it’s an integral part of creating economic prosperity that represents everyone in our community.
“The passion in the room at our first roadshow in Garberville this past Wednesday certainly reflected the … [vast challenges] for many people living in Southern Humboldt,” Jones said. “The conversation centered a lot around the need for improved roads throughout the region and supporting the existing businesses that are struggling to stay afloat.”
Once the roadshow series wraps up next month, the economic development team will present its findings to local leaders and industry experts. From there, the CEDS will be presented to the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors for adoption.
Upcoming roadshows will be held at the following times and locations:
- Eel River Valley: Monday, August 29 from 5:30-7 p.m. at the River Lodge Conference Center, 1800 Riverwalk Drive, Fortuna
- North East County: Tuesday, August 30 from 5:30-7 p.m.at Azalea Hall, 1620 Pickett Road, McKinleyville
- Greater Eureka/Humboldt Bay: Wednesday, September 7 from 5:30-7 p.m. at the Eureka Sequoia Conference Center, 901 Myrtle Avenue, Eureka
- North County: Thursday, September 8 from 5:30-7 p.m. at Trinidad Town Hall, 409 Trinity Street, Trinidad
- Willow Creek: Friday, September 9 from 5:30-7 p.m. at Willow Creek Vets Hall (Ironside Post 9561), 20 Kimtu Road, Willow Creek
More information on the roadshow series can be found here.