VISTA 2025 plan shared with community leaders
● By Richard Gaw
The primary function of a highway is to serve as a thoroughfare that connects people to people, places to places and opportunity to opportunity. In the case of the Route 1 corridor from Kennett Square to Nottingham in southern Chester County, it's also linking together two distinct visions for the future of Chester County.
On Jan. 15, over 150 community leaders, politicians, architects, engineers and visionaries packed the the auditorium at the Herr's Foods Visitors Center to watch it happen before their eyes – the joining of two distinct economic development strategies – VISTA 2025 and the Route 1 Corridor Initiative. Throughout the presentation, the dovetail between the two plans was generous.
David Sciochetti, Urban Development Consultant for the Chester County Economic Development Council, shared the game plan for VISTA 2025, a Chester County public-private partnership effort focused on creating an economic development strategy for the county.
Referring to the VISTA 2025 logo behind him on a large screen, Sciochetti pointed out the graphic identity's merging illustrations, which include a circuit board, a windmill, a chemical beaker and a covered bridge. He said that the illustrations are reflective of the mission of VISTA 2025, which he said are spelled out with the words, "Progress" and "Preservation."
"In Chester County, we've been able to balance both," he said. "Not many counties have been able to manage the balance between progress and preservation. It's not your typical mix."
During his presentation, Sciochetti spelled out the five key goals of VISTA 2025, which are to maintain and enhance the "Quality of Place" as a key component of economic health; to position Chester County as a magnet for attracting talent, and serve as a model for an employer-ready workforce; to expand business attraction and retention efforts with a focus on targeted industry clusters; to establish an innovation culture; and support critical infrastructure and corridors of opportunity.
Sciochetti said that each of those goals has a direct connection to the economic development of Route 1 in southern Chester County, which he called "a corridor of opportunity."
"If you look at the Route 1 Corridor, you have an amazing mushroom industry, you've got warehousing, industry, agriculture, a great technical school, good open space -- a lot of things that are part and parcel of that corridor, as well as a lot of communities with different ideas as to what their future would look like," Sciochetti said. "Communities along the corridor have the opportunity to make choices. They have a rail line, they have modes of transportation, they can attract business and industry."
To what degree either the VISTA 2025 plan or Route 1 Corridor Initiative will ultimately yield fruit has not yet been fully realized, but one thing is certain: Chester County is a fertile ground for these ideas to take root. Chester County Commissioner Terence Farrell, who opened the presentation, said that the county is one of only 42 Triple A counties in the nation, and the best educated, healthiest and wealthiest county in the Commonwealth.
He said that when the county began working on VISTA 2025, a consultant helping with the plan told the VISTA group that of all the economic plans they had consulted on, Chester County was the only county whose significant economic drivers was it's distinct location – its close proximity to New York, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C. -- as well as its qualities, such as open space and appreciation of its history.
Farrell echoed Sciochetti's comments, which insisted that just because the outlook is rosy right now in the county, that past performance is no guarantee of future success.
"If we don't plan, the world's economy will catch up to us and surpass us," Farrell said. "We are engaged in partnerships to develop strategies to keep the county vibrant. VISTA 2025 is a plan that renews itself. It's not meant to be put on the shelf and forgotten about. We need to review and change strategies and goals each year."
Jim Horn, the chief executive officer of Tri-M in Kennett Square, has been one of the leading voices in the Route 1 Initiative Steering Committee, which was formed to help encourage new business opportunities along the corridor. In providing opening remarks, Horn said that VISTA 2025 dovetails nicely with the Route 1 plans.
"The people of communities of southern Chester County envision a region that works together to provide jobs for its citizens and expands its tax base," Horn said, "a region that invests in its business districts to create attractive destinations for commerce and development, a region that protects its agricultural base and conserves its picturesque landscapes, a region that builds on its sens of place and diversity that makes this region uniquely suited as a great place to live, work and play."
Throughout his presentation, Sciochetti insisted that the VISTA 2025 plan is not a top-down, obligatory punch list, nor a mandate to get townships and municipalities to change their zoning laws in order to attract economic growth opportunities. Rather, he intoned, VISTA 2025 is a document of what could be, written in the language of economic ideas.
"If you want to have a balance of progress and preservation and economic health, then you need someplace for the economy to grow," he said. "And if you don't want it to be urban sprawl, you have to tell it where it can go. VISTA 2025 is saying that these are places where it can go...We're trying to put the picture together of where Chester County fits in the international, national and regional economy."
Paraphrasing a line from Alice in Wonderland, Sciochetti said, "If you don't know where you're going, any road will get you there. You need to start thinking about where you want to be, so you can start to make informed decisions about how to get there."
To contact Staff Writer Richard L. Gaw, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.