& Performance Measures
The North Central Pennsylvania CEDS represents a blueprint to advance the region’s competitiveness for jobs, talent, and investment. However, development of the CEDS was simply the “end of the beginning;” implementing the plan is the most critical aspect of the CEDS process. No single organization or entity – from either a capacity or mission standpoint – can advance a program of work this broad and ambitious. Instead, translating the CEDS into reality will entail multiple public, private, and nonprofit partners committing time, personnel, and resources in support of strategic implementation.
Simply put, activating North Central’s CEDS will require a collaborative approach and centralized capacity to coordinate activities and communicate progress. An entity needs to “own” the plan and track progress towards goal attainment. As the principal organization overseeing the region’s economic development district and lead entity for its CEDS processes, the North Central Pennsylvania Regional Planning and Development Commission (North Central) is the logical entity to serve this purpose. As with CEDS past, North Central will leverage staff and coordinate volunteers to advance, monitor, assess, and adjust CEDS-related activities to ensure the plan is achieving its desired benefit.
Working with local and regional partners, North Central will utilize data to establish a framework for evaluating progress towards CEDS implementation. The organization’s CEDS Committee will serve an important function, receiving quantitative reports and qualitative feedback on the current state of CEDS implementation. The Committee, working with North Central staff, will help determine whether strategic efforts should be sustained, enhanced, reprioritized, or initiated as the work of implementation continues.
While the majority of performance tracking data will be sourced by North Central from state, federal, and proprietary datasets, municipal and county partners should continue working with the agency to communicate and deliver data germane to CEDS performance evaluation.
At a minimum, CEDS implementation must be assessed annually to determine goal-attainment progress and establish priorities for the year to come. Performance tracking data typically lags by a year or more, so anecdotal and qualitative feedback must also factor into annual progress evaluations.
Performance measurement is essential to the implementation of a holistic strategy. Metrics are needed to assess progress and help partner organizations determine whether implementation is delivering desired results. More broadly, metrics can help a community determine whether it is effectively working toward high-level goals such as raising standards of living and improving quality of life.
Implementation tracking is typically comprised of two components: performance measures and activity measures. While performance measures utilize quantitative data to monitor achievement trends, activity measures gauge specific efforts towards strategic activation. Examples would be whether a proposed program is launched, levels of investment in capital-intensive projects, how many stakeholders have been engaged in volunteer efforts, the number of unique visits to the NCPA CEDS website, etc.
To measure the overall, collective impact of the many distinct but interconnected components of North Central’s CEDS, it is recommended that the region base implementation progress assessments on a set of high-level, quantifiable performance metrics. Any one action or organization will not be able to move the needle effectively on these measures. Instead, they reflect the collective efforts of the community as a whole working together to implement the CEDS. As a rising tide lifts all boats, successfully activating multiple CEDS projects will help improve these global measures; conversely, status quo efforts would see them continue along established trendlines. North Central and its partners are welcome create more specific tracking measures based on particular goals or strategies, but for the purposes of this analysis, aforementioned comprehensive measurements of community and economic vitality will be used.
Based on trends identified in the North Central CEDS’ Summary Background and SWOT Analysis report as well as key initiatives in the strategy, the following indicators were selected to measure the overall impact of CEDS implementation. They represent key tracking components of the region’s population, economy, individual and community welfare, and place-based elements. In some cases, performance was trending in a negative direction, so five-year goal projection acknowledges this by anticipating a slowdown of these negative results. For each indicator, the most recently available figure is listed along with the data year and source. As noted earlier, performance data typically lags by a year or more and should be complemented by qualitative assessment factors. To project five-year performance goals, recent-year trends were analyzed with the assumption that effective CEDS implementation will cause these trends to improve. Thus, five-year projections represent aspirational outcomes tied to effectively activating the CEDS plan.
Data is collected and measured at the regional level to reflect the CEDS planning geography and composition of the economic development district. North Central and partners can disaggregate data at the county level for one or more indicators at their discretion.
Performance measurement data should be updated annually or when new data is released by the government to consistently inform adjustments to implementation activities and prioritization.
A note of caution related to performance projections: it is impossible to predict the future. As an example, who could have imagined that a global pandemic would wreak havoc on the global and local economies for two-plus years? So North Central Pennsylvania’s CEDS performance goals could certainly be affected by one or more unforeseen events that might lower or increase expectations for results. However, looking at year-to-year trends nevertheless provides a defensible estimate of future performance in a steady-state environment.
Ultimately, successful CEDS implementation will be seen and felt by North Central residents in their daily lives and hopes for the future. This tangible sense that life is getting better is truly the goal of any strategic implementation process.