Traditionally dependent on heavy industry, Racine County sought to foster an environment where technology-based industries could develop and thrive. The county offered many of the elements that defined success under traditional economic development models: close proximity to two major metro areas, a significant manufacturing base comprised of an enviable number of internationally recognized companies, good transportation infrastructure, an agreeable quality of life, and committed leadership. While these advantages remained important, they were no longer sufficient to draw talent and investment to the area.
To guide the county in a re-thinking of its approach, the Racine County Economic Development Corporation (RCEDC) engaged TIP Strategies, in partnership with the IC2 Institute at the University of Texas, to prepare an economic adjustment strategy (EAS). With input from the business community, public officials, and economic and community development groups, work on the EAS was carried out in three phases: a baseline assessment of the county’s economy and assets, an analysis of its competitive advantages and most promising clusters, and the development of a long-range action plan for RCEDC and its partners. Upon the plan’s completion, RCEDC appointed a countywide team to manage implementation and monitor progress. The EAS, which went through five iterations, guided RCEDC’s activities for nearly a decade. Accomplishments since the plan’s completion include successfully launching the Center for Advanced Technology and Innovation (CATI), participating in commuter rail planning for the Chicago-Milwaukee Corridor, and negotiating a cross-jurisdictional infrastructure agreement that had hindered development on one of the county’s prime sites for several decades. The resolution of this critical wastewater agreement was credited to the collaboration built during the planning process. Along with updates to the EAS, TIP also prepared a business recruitment strategy for RCEDC, which included a targeted international recruitment approach.