New Cape Economics, Cape Chamber CEO: 'I Want to Brand Cape Cod as a Great Place for Entrepreneurs.'
Plans are in the works to turn Cape Cod into a haven for the business-minded.
Cape Cod is changing. Once sustained primarily by tourism and hospitality enterprises, local leaders are now taking the necessary steps to move us into a new economic reality, one less dependent on seasonality.
Although the resort atmosphere and the enviable lifestyle Cape Cod projects will always be a draw for visitors, it cannot—and should not—be sustained by tourism alone.
Barnstable County is in the midst of executing its Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS), "comprised of 16 priority projects that will advance economic activity in the region," according to Wendy Northcross, CEO of the Cape Cod Chamber of Commerce.
Several organizations including Cape Cod Chamber of Commerce, Massachusetts Small Business Development Center, Cape Cod Technology Council and Regional Technology Development Corporation are working together to diversify the economy through initiatives to modernize the Cape's technological capacities as well as generate interest of entrepreneurs and professionals who may not have previously considered the Cape as a viable base of operations.
"The plan is to attract and retain employment on Cape Cod," Northcross noted. "Having a certified plan leads to successful grants and other funding sources to implement it."
Of these 16 projects, OpenCape, an initiative that will bring broadband to southeastern Massachusetts, is a cornerstone in modernizing the Cape's technological capacity.
"OpenCape will allow us to diversify our economy and lure businesses here that require more robust telecommunications. It will allow those here to grow and increase the different types of jobs that we have in the region," said Northcross.
"It will single-handedly change Cape Cod—for the better," she said.
Northcross cites bolstering the Cape's technological prowess as one of the key methods of attracting people who may wish to call Cape Cod home or become second homeowners.
"Without OpenCape and without a plan to grow and diversify, our economy will continue to age and lose our young families," she said.
Fortifying technology is arguably the most important change needed for the Cape to reach a new level of self-sufficiency and attract business-minded people who will help invigorate the economy.
Technology alone will not be enough.
"The Cape Cod Chamber has been working with other regional organizations that have a role in this work of advising and assisting emerging or growing entrepreneurs," Northcross said. "We have been working on creating a system by which an entrepreneur would be assessed and then guided toward the correct help they need."
Northcross is optimistic about the Cape's ability to generate lasting and beneficial changes.
"I think Cape Codders are extremely self-sufficient," Northcross said. "I think that entrepreneurship is an opportunity to help diversify our economy, which any healthy economy aspires to."
"We need to set the table with all the pieces we can to be an attractive place to live and work," Northcross said.
Such entrepreneurial clout is already found among many of the Cape's current business-owners, who have managed to create and sustain their desired lifestyle by tapping into existing resources and creating or utilizing new means of communication.
Gary Sheehan, president and CEO of Cape Cod Medical Supply, said while Cape Cod's challenges may strike some as unique to the region, there are numerous ways to connect with others facing similar challenges by utilizing social networking websites.
Sheehan is optimistic about the Cape's future and said, "We've got a very dedicated group of community leaders. The Chamber of Commerce has done a nice job of creating forums and events where we can discuss challenges and solutions."
Sheehan is also one of the founders of Cape Cod Young Professionals, an organization that facilitates networking and support for business owners, entrepreneurs and other mid-level professionals.
"It's important to find an anchor in the community and to make personal and business connections," he said. "Web presence is very important, but you also need to make interpersonal connections."
CCYP has proved to be a valuable asset for professionals like Amanda Converse, co-owner of Shift Boutique in Hyannis and chair of the town's Economic Development Commission.
"We have a creative, smart community here," Converse said. "It's great to know people are supporting you."
Converse said creating authentic connections with customers is one of the keys to her success.
"We try to create a good atmosphere here, a good experience—something that big businesses can't offer," said Converse.
Enlivening the local economy is paramount to the Cape's long-term success and success is hinged on enriching local institutions and facilitating access to the tools that will help professionals develop the skills they need to succeed .
"We would not be able to lure younger people here to live and raise their family without a first class education system," Northcross said. "We certainly could not do it without some economic opportunity available here as well."
David Augustinho, Executive Director of the Cape and Islands Workforce Investment Board, noted his organization "is involved in training activities designed to bring unemployed or underemployed individuals into different sectors, like healthcare, or help to increase their management skills."
"Our goal is to facilitate progress for the future," he said.
He described the importance of generating interest in new economic enterprises, "in order to diversify, we need startups—part of any economic development strategy needs to involve the creating of businesses."
It is not surprising collaboration and leadership are key to realizing the success of these initiatives.