Economic Development Expert to Help Grow Somerset County
The Somerset Economic Development Council has added an Economic Development Specialist to its staff.
Tracey Prather is working full-time with the SCEDC, fulfilling a critical role in supporting and initiating several exciting projects. She will play a key part in aligning private and public resources to achieve economic expansion and diversity. She will also advance the regional Startup Alleghenies initiative, and work closely with the Council’s Entrepreneurship and Innovation Coach, to encourage, support, and facilitate startups.
Ms. Prather brings to this position a history of community and government engagement, grantwriting, event coordination, a strong background in marketing, and tremendous enthusiasm for the mission she now serves. “I strongly believe in the old adage, ‘A rising tide lift all boats,’” says Prather, “and for me, a county with a solid economic base creates an atmosphere of hope for its citizens. A growing, thriving economy creates job security for employees.”
This is the third major hire the SCEDC has made in the last year, as part of a reimagined plan to invigorate economic development throughout the county. Daniel Parisi joined the Council in June as Entrepreneurship Coach, and Joshua Miller took the helm last March as the Council’s new Executive Director.
According to Miller, “The creation of the specialist position could not have come at a better time in light of the exciting regional and county wide, game-changing, programs that are currently in the mix and on the horizon. Our private sector mindset, coupled with a genuine partnership approach is resonating with business leaders and has already helped our organization realize a number of successes in a relatively short period of time. The addition of Tracey Prather will only multiple those achievements and push the envelope even further.”
Funding for the position came together through a collaboration between private businesses and nonprofit foundations, with additional support from Somerset County. The Community Foundation for the Alleghenies provided $30,000 through its Community Initiatives Fund. Somerset Trust Company, Global/SFC Valve Company, Somerset County Commissioners, and the SCEDC provided an additional $30,000 combined.
“For the first time in a long time, I am excited about growth in Somerset County.” says Global/SFC Valve Company’s Bob Kirst. “The Board of the Somerset County Economic Development Council made a wise decision when they appointed Joshua Miller as the Executive Director. Joshua’s excitement, knowledge, dedication and enthusiasm will reignite the employers and residents of Somerset County to once again become a leader in manufacturing in not only Pennsylvania, but the Country. With the recent contributions from businesses and the CFA, Joshua has the opportunity to build a good team to support the initiatives.”
Somerset County Commissioner James T. Yoder calls Ms. Prather a welcome addition: “We are very excited to be partnered with such a great economic program. We welcome Tracey on board and are glad we could support the program.”
The Community Foundation generally doesn’t provide funding for salaries. But in this case, the position creates a clear opportunity for the right person to successfully implement the SCEDC’s revitalized vision, and to have a positive, long-term impact on Somerset County. “There’s no question that this position is needed to support the county in its efforts to attract new business,” says CFA President Mike Kane. “New, diversified, businesses will shape the future of Somerset County, as they will our entire region. We are pleased to be a part of this collaborative effort.”
SCEDC Board President Jon Wahl adds, “The SCEDC has committed to an aggressive rebirth of its mission and vision. Our improved mission features a much greater effort and emphasis on local economic development – expansion and growth from within. While this shift in thinking and process requires significant effort internally, it also requires great partners! The Community Foundation for the Alleghenies (CFA) is not just a strategic partner, the CFA shares a common core vision and belief in our community. With the assistance of the CFA and key local sponsors — including Global/SFC Valve Company, Somerset Trust Company and the Somerset County Commissioners — the future continues to look bright, and we will continue to invest into it.”
Early indicators bode well for the effort, which hinges on cultivating government, nonprofit, and private business partnerships for an environment that’s friendly to economic opportunities large and small:
- A pilot workforce program has brought together five regional partners to engage 25 major employers who have created 43 new jobs, with an additional 211 new jobs on the horizon. This program has also helped seven manufacturers begin the development and implementation of apprenticeship programs with PA’s Dept. of Community & Economic Development and Dept. of Labor & Industry.
- Within his first few months, the Entrepreneurship & Innovation Coach has already
identified and is working with more than 40 startups.
- The team has secured a $75,000 grant through the USDA, to provide low-interest microloans
to budding businesses.
- In coordination with its partners, the SCEDC has facilitated the growth of 15 new ventures, totaling $1.5 million in new financing.
“Since Joshua Miller has taken on the Somerset County Economic Development Council, there is a new energy which is creating an excitement in our local economy,” affirms G. Henry Cook, CEO and Chairman of the Board, Somerset Trust Company. “With the help of the Community Foundation’s challenge grant, Somerset Trust Company is pleased to help feed this excitement. With the addition of Economic Development Specialist in the Council offices, the Council will do even more to improve the economic environment in Somerset County. In my 50 years of banking, the recurrent challenge in the community has been the creation of living wage jobs for our community. It is my sense the Council is doing more to tackle this important challenge than ever before.”
Ms. Prather is the final piece of a team bringing fresh ideas to Somerset County’s business community, with energy and skill to see them through. “Somerset has a real synergy and I’m excited to be part of the team working to create, retain and build business is this amazing community.”