Cumpata: A look at how economic development works in McHenry County

By PAM CUMPATA Published: Saturday, June 3, 2017 5:30 a.m. CDT
Pam Cumpata — Shaw Media file photo

“Empowerment” isn’t a buzzword among leadership gurus. It’s a proven technique where leaders give their teams the appropriate training, tools, resources and guidance to succeed.

I’m often asked “So, what is it you do?” Over the years I have gotten a variety of reactions from enthusiasm to a polite smile. I have come to realize that many people out there, including some of the readers of this article, aren’t exactly sure what economic development means. So for all the “smile-and-nodders” out there – this article is for you.

When I think about the role of the McHenry County Economic Development Corp., I always come back to the word “empowerment.” This is a word that gets tossed around a lot lately. You might even say it has risen to the level of buzzword status. I am not one to use a lot of jargon or buzzwords, but as business leader John Rampton points out so eloquently in his quote, empowerment should not be treated so cavalierly. To empower someone really means to change their life. How? By giving them everything they truly need to prosper. Guidance, training, resources – these are the tools of long-term success. Let me give you some examples of what I mean.

The McHenry County EDC is a liaison between the businesses of the county and regional and federal agencies. For example, we partner with Metro Chicago Exports, which focuses on the needs of county businesses that seek to export their products. As a result of this partnership, we are able to offer any business in the county that wants to start exporting or expand their exporting an opportunity to apply for an annual grant that is given by Metro Chicago Exports.

In addition, we offer businesses guidance in applying for this grant as well as other resources and opportunities for exporting. In turn, this empowers our local businesses by helping them compete in the larger global economy.  

Another example can be found in the wide range of resources we offer existing business owners in the county to help them grow. We can provide demographic data, industry data and census data that can be used in business or marketing plans. The McHenry County EDC can help businesses navigate through the financing process and take the guess work and aggravation out of what could otherwise be a daunting process. Our “Enhancing Excellence” speaker series, CEO Peer Groups and CRO Peer Groups provide avenues for our business leaders to engage with and learn from experts and peers alike. All of this translates into stronger, healthier, and yes, empowered leadership and businesses throughout the county.

These are just a few illustrations of the ways in which the EDC seeks to help those who live and work in McHenry County. We are the advocate of the businesses that call this county home, and we take that role very seriously. We help business leaders cut through the “red tape” and get things done.

Our goal is to help each and every business in the county position themselves for growth year after year. We cannot control what the future brings but we can be darn sure that we will do everything we can to help our local businesses, and community, thrive. Maybe the next time I am asked the “what do you do” question, I should answer, “I am in the empowerment business.”

• Pam Cumpata is president of the McHenry County Economic Development Corp.