The Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS) is a regional planning effort completed for the five counties of Carter, Dawson, Fallon, Prairie, and Wibaux in eastern Montana. The planning document, which includes implementation components, is designed to increase job creation and retention as well as the area's tax base, to foster a more stable and diverse economy, to improve the standard of living, and to provide a vehicle with which to help the region focus on their communities' future needs and responsibilities.
The planning process analyzes local conditions and trends, identifies problems and opportunities, sets goals, objectives, and strategies, and coordinates activities to implement change. It creates an ongoing foundation for future economic planning and activity in the region and ensures continued compliance with federal Economic Development Administration CEDS guidelines. Planning for community, economic, and rural development is a continuous process, responding to changing wants and needs.
The original CEDS planning process resulted in the formation of the Eastern Plains Economic Development Corporation (EPEDC), a non-profit corporation recognized by the State of Montana as a Certified Regional Development Corporation (CRDC), whose mission is to maintain, diversify, and improve economic conditions while fostering cooperation between public and private entities in Carter, Dawson, Fallon, Prairie, and Wibaux Counties. The first CEDS document was prepared in 2006 to obtain designation as an Economic Development District (EDD) from the U. S. Department of Commerce, Economic Development Administration (EDA). This document is then updated every five years, with the most current one being 2017/2022.
Relevant social and economic data from the U. S. Census Bureau and other sources is included in the CEDS report. Also, assessments of the region's economic condition and a discussion of the region's current strategy for economic development is provided. This region consists of educated residents whose actions reflect a strong work ethic and an environment that promotes an excellent quality of life.
CEDS strategy meetings are held throughout the region. Residents and local officials expressed a desire to initiate projects that will provoke sustainable, multi-faceted economic development. The most often mentioned projects included the desire to improve the local economy, enhance local housing, improve and expand local infrastructure, expand the use of natural resources, and encourage tourism within the area. Public input from this process was categorized into the EPEDC's five focus areas—Economy, Housing, Infrastructure, Natural Resources, and Tourism.
Without the active participation of local elected officials, area business people, government employees, local economic development representatives, and private citizens, neither CEDS would have been possible. The current update to the CEDS document identifies specific economic development goals and objectives and represents the efforts of an economic development committee that worked together to develop mutually beneficial strategies to meet those needs.
If local leaders look forward to a bright economic future, they can't wait for a "one size fits all" plan. They must start at the local level, planning now for the retirement of the baby boomer generation, an increase in regional development, and new workforce needs. As baby boomers leave the workforce, the demographic shift will affect everything from housing to health care to the job market. Quality infrastructure—fundamentals like streets, sewers, and schools—are important components of economic development. The EPEDC provides a vision to help local leaders help themselves.