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Jamie Keener in May was named CEO of the Carlisle Area Economic Development Corp., a nonprofit that receives county hotel tax funds and is designed to encourage and support economic development.

He replaced Jonathan Bowser, who left in August 2018 to help start a private-sector real estate development and consulting business. Under Bowser’s watch, CAEDC led the redevelopment of three brownfields sites in Carlisle and formed a subsidiary, the Real Estate Collaborative, that uses public and private funds to purchase less desirable properties and attempts to fix them up and resell them.

At first glance, it might appear that Cumberland County’s economy doesn’t need any help. It has the one of the state’s fastest-growing populations and a lower-than-state-average unemployment rate.

Yet Keener sees CAEDC as important to Cumberland County’s prosperity — so much so that he left his job as director of business development at Herbert, Rowland & Grubic in Harrisburg to take the helm at CAEDC. In an interview, he explained why.

Q: Why did you want to be CEO of CAEDC?A: Having been associated with CAEDC for the past 7 years, I see it as an organization through which we have and can continue to have a significant impact on our community. As a native of Shippensburg and a current resident of Hampden Township I was looking for a role where my past experience with development, municipalities and not-for-profit organizations could be used to its greatest extent and where I could give back to my community.

Q: What parts of your background or experience do you think will help you most while leading CAEDC?A: I am a certified (land use) planner by trade. I spent 30 years with consultants working on development projects, representing municipalities and developing planning documents, managing offices and developing relationships with many elected officials, business people, and other organizations. I served on many boards/commissions over the past 15 years, including chambers of commerce, transit authority, workforce investment, economic advisory, United Way, Arts Council, regional police, township supervisor and township zoning hearing. These experiences have given me a comprehensive understanding of the interrelationships that exist in communities and how we must work together for the betterment of all of our residents.

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Q: What attributes of Cumberland County make it easier or harder than other areas to promote business growth and development?A: Our transportation network (although in need of expanding capacity on I-81), the quality of our workforce (unemployment is low so we could stand to increase the number of employees so businesses could grow), our overall quality of life (our natural resources and the amenities that we have) set us apart from many other areas. This includes amenities such as the Appalachian Trail, LeTort Spring Creek, Yellow Breeches Creek, Army Heritage Education Center, Carlisle Events, etc.

Q: How do you balance the value of development with concerns that portions of Cumberland County are getting overdeveloped?A: As a certified planner, we look at issues from a holistic point of view. There must be a balance between economic development and preservation of our historic and natural resources. Tourism plays a significant role in our economic development and many of our tourism assets are associated with our natural environment, i.e. trails, streams, parks, etc. I look to support revitalization of our downtowns to develop/redevelop where the infrastructure is already in place and where we can recreate walkable, vibrant communities.

Q: Do you have any plans for CAEDC that are new or exciting for you?A: We will be developing a new strategic plan over the next 6-12 months which will help to set the direction of CAEDC. Initially, I plan to focus on downtown revitalization, redevelopment of environmentally constrained sites, developing new tourism assets that will put heads-in-beds, and infrastructure improvements to ready transportation, water and wastewater systems for development.

Q: How can people and businesses in the community help CAEDC in creating a more prosperous Cumberland County

?

A: Understand that we are all in this together. We must collaborate to more efficiently use the assets and resources we have. I don’t want to look back (except to learn from our past). I want to go forward in a positive direction to the benefit of all of Cumberland County and our region.

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Daniel Walmer covers public safety for The Sentinel. You can reach him by email at dwalmer@cumberlink.com or by phone at 717-218-0021.

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