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Strategic Economic Development Action Plan

County of Berks
Economic Strategy

The County of Berks is the municipal government for Berks County, Pennsylvania, which includes the city of Reading, as well as a large number of townships and boroughs.

The County of Berks engaged Fourth Economy to prepare an Economic Development Action Plan (EDAP), known as IMAGINE Berks, that builds on the economic development work already completed or underway, bolstering the efforts of their community and introducing new strategies of proven success. To accomplish this, the County required a process that would engage multi-municipal partners, key stakeholders, as well as residents from across the entire county in the work of identifying strategic priorities. The resulting strategies would need to optimize the County’s ability to retain and attract businesses, workforce, and investment that improves the economic prosperity of Berks County and its residents.

Our Approach

Fourth Economy worked with the County of Berks economic development team, along with a broader planning team that included leaders from economically-oriented agencies and partner organizations as well as the County's elected officials, to drive a process that prioritized deep economic analysis, strong community engagement, and the cultivation of strategies that were right sized for the communities that comprise Berks County. Our analysis work included stakeholder and resident interviews, a community survey, which elicited 440 responses from 69 different municipalities, large group meetings with community organizations, and quantitative analysis, which included assessments of industry growth, workforce trends, educational attainment, small business and entrepreneurship, land use, and infrastructure. In this work, Fourth Economy also engaged two partners, Connect the Dots, to support community engagement, and the Center for Regional Analysis at the Economic Development Company of Lancaster County to support economic analysis. Throughout the process, a public-facing website, developed by Fourth Economy, was leveraged to provide strategic updates to residents, stakeholders, and plan investors to generate interest, share insights, and offer transparency into planning process activities.

The Results

IMAGINE Berks was approved by County of Berks' County Commissioners in August 2022. Its final contents are featured in a well-designed plan that identifies key principles that are intended to guide all suggested investments and action steps within the plan, as well as six priority areas of focus that include goals, strategies, and metrics to drive implementation, community ownership, and accountability. Additionally, a presentation was developed to provide a simple, easily-digestible tool to present the plan's contents to the community. Lastly, the plan's public-facing website will continue to live on as a tool for the public to access the full plan, as well as receive updates on plan-related activities from the County of Berks.

Location

Berks County, PA

Project Type

Economic Development Strategy

Client Type

Government

Scale

Region/County