The Straight Scoop on Shale

A project of the League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania Citizen Education Fund

Building a Task Force

Your county or community may want to create a Sustainable Economic Development Task Force, as a follow-up to visioning, or as an alternative to visioning.

The task force will meet on an ongoing basis:

  • to envision and originate a set of recommended projects and policies;
  • and/or to further develop a set of ideas created in visioning sessions;
  • and/or to help implement a set of recommended projects and policies.

The task force can be broken up into different subcommittees/task force groups.

The task force should be made up of people from different sectors including local government and agency leaders or staff (particularly from the planning department, also tourism bureau), local institutions of higher learning, businesses and business groups, local environmental organizations, League of Women Voters members, and people from the task force group economic sectors (e.g. farmers, builders).  The task force should include a variety of stakeholders.

We recommend that the task force membership be open to members of the public who are interested in the topics and in doing the work to create and to help implement sustainable development. The task force should also include some leaders who are recruited to attend.

Following the April 2017 THRIVE summit, where the broad variety of sustainable development opportunities was presented, Indiana County, PA’s commissioners voted to create a Sustainable Economic Development Task Force.

The Indiana Task Force of about 80 people includes four different focus areas:  Sustainable Agriculture, Renewable Energy, Sustainable Building Construction and Materials, and Environmental Restoration and Stewardship.

For each of the four sectors, the focus groups created goals in three different areas: economic development, citizen education/civic engagement, and job training/workforce development.

The Task Force process is documented on the website.

The website was created to increase transparency and give the public access to what the task force was doing and thinking, in real time.

The Task Force met about 8 times between September 2017 and May 2018. Each Task Force Group began by generating a wish list of desired projects/outcomes. Then, the Task Force groups explored what existing assets could support the wish list ideas. They noted what the needs would be to achieve successful implementation. They looked at potential resources and partnerships that could help develop and implement the wished-for goals. They came up with recommended action steps. They further honed their recommendations to be made to the Indiana County Office of Planning and Development. They got feedback from community stakeholders at a Task Force all day open house in June 2018.

Working with an outside contractor, the Task Force produced a report of recommendations. These recommendations were presented at a second Summit, in September 2018.

One benefit of establishing a Task Force is to help get grants for sustainable development projects. The Task Force members can sign onto grant proposals submitted by the planning and development department that fulfill the recommendation goals or aspirational visions set forth by the Task Force. The funding agency will be more apt to consider a proposal that is already backed by a group of action-oriented community members.

In May 2018, the Indiana County Task Force was selected to receive a technical assistance grant by the U.S. EPA’s “Local Foods, Local Places” program. In October 2018, the EPA held a two-day workshop with the agricultural task force members, and interested local farmers and food producers, to create an action plan for creating a viable supply chain between local farmers and local market outlets for their products. The plan also included actions to improve the walkability and use of the downtown area of Indiana PA.