Cumberland Area Economic Development Corp.’s plan to sell “memberships” in a bid to become financially independent is off to a strong start, an official said.
On March 1, CAEDC created the Cumberland Valley Alliance, a membership-based program offering several perks. For a fee ranging from $100 to more than $4,500 annually, businesses receive services that can include networking, seminars and legislative updates.
Jonathan Bowser, CEO of CAEDC, said the concept is “doing better than we initially anticipated. We have received very positive feedback from the business and municipal community.”
The CVA includes three levels of membership: Friends ($100-$1,499), Members ($1,500-$4,499) and Founders ($4,500 and up). With each level comes additional services that range from greens fees at the CAEDC golf tournament to being an annual tourism conference sponsor.
One hundred percent of the investment generated from the CVA will fund existing financing programs, CAEDC has said, in addition to funding business attraction efforts through direct marketing.
As of last week, CAEDC reported four Founders, seven Members and 10 Friends for 21 total memberships. In addition, Bowser said CAEDC is in discussions with seven additional potential members.
Due to the timing of the announcement, he said, CAEDC did not budget for a high number of CVA memberships at this point.
“Several corporations finalize their budgets in the fall for the next calendar fiscal year,” he said via email. “So we were anticipating for that to impact our alliance memberships in year one. In some instances it has played a factor in the level of giving but has had a lesser impact on the number of memberships.”
The county cut its contribution to CAEDC from $90,000 to $40,000 this year, with the expectation the agency would be “self supporting” in the future, commissioners have said. That led to the CVA plan as the agency seeks to replace public funding with private dollars.
“To continue to be successful and diversify our business base in the valley, we need to increase our marketing efforts nationally and internationally,” Bowser said. “The costs to do so is significant. So we are really focused on raising as much as possible to be able to do so and for it to be impactful.”
For every dollar invested, CAEDC has returned $127 in additional investment, which has equated to more than $10 million in additional annual tax revenue to the local economy, CAEDC said in announcing the membership plan.
CAEDC will continue to work on behalf of all businesses in the county, Bowser has said.