A New, Integrated Approach
For much of the 19th century and well into the 20th century Wayne County experienced a robust economy supported by a solid manufacturing and rail infrastructure. However, this began to change in the latter half of the 20th century as the local economy started shifting to one based on retail trade, recreational accommodations and service jobs. Unfortunately, these are also among the lowest paying sectors of both the local and national economies. Today Wayne County ranks near the bottom in terms of its relative per capita wages.
As family-sustaining incomes suffered, more and more families and young people simply moved away in search of better economic circumstances. This trend has gradually led to a population mix of aging long-term residents, many of whom tend to be economically challenged, and their more affluent, retired neighbors, who spent their working years in places with higher standards of living.
In 2010, Wayne County completed a 10-year update of its Comprehensive Plan, and the Board of Commissioners wanted to make sure that the groundwork laid out in the various elements of the plan became the foundation for a bold, new future.
In 2013, Wayne County recognized that these evolving trends were leading to unsustainable communities from an economic, cultural and educational perspective. This realization led to the creation of Wayne Tomorrow, a county-commissioner and community-supported planning initiative aimed at reversing these negative trends.
Called Wayne Tomorrow! The mission has been to establish an inclusive process for on-going dialogue and create a shared vision that will build the community and help guide development of Wayne County. To that end, the commissioners sought out people of varying backgrounds, professions and political outlooks from different industrial and economic sectors, assembling a group of people who might only rarely find themselves seated around the same table.
Five Key Elements
This diverse group identified five key elements to focus on both as individual components, but also as interrelated and connected topics, and they formed Work Groups to look more closely at:
- Business and Economic Development
- Human Resources and Education
- Quality of Life
- Sustainable Communities
Working Groups Established
Each of these Work Groups was asked to conduct a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) Analysis, and from those efforts a set of themes emerged, showing up on each list in some fashion or another: Broadband Internet Access and Communication; a Career and Technical Center; Economic Development; Education Opportunities; Health and Wellness; Marketing and Branding; Natural Assets; and Transportation.
Over a period of several years, these dedicated working groups identified and prioritized a number of short - and long-term projects that are covered in some depth in Wayne Tomorrow's Strategic Plan. The Strategic Plan represents an integrated and staged development plan, which is the basis of a dynamic and evolving economic and cultural ecosystem that is envisioned to be foundational for future community and business growth.