Pam Cumpata: ‘One Voice’
Pamela Cumpata strives to enhance the success of county businesses, for the economy and the county.
The McHenry County Economic Development Corp. (MCEDC) has a new leader with a new vision. Pamela Cumpata, newly appointed MCEDC president, has goals for the county that encompass the strengthening of the organization, as well as increasing its visibility.
“This organization needs to become more visible in the county through its government and the growth of its business community,” Cumpata said.
A MCEDC feasibility study provided a road map. Now it’s up to Cumpata to direct the vision of organization and its relationships with municipalities and local businesses.
“The MCEDC works well with manufacturers, distributors and financial institutions,” she said. “We focus on growing the business community as a whole and creating jobs.”
Winds of Change
After 18 years, the MCEDC has gone through much iteration. Cumpata is setting out to change the agenda from previous administrations. “It is a company-wide effort to energize the changes,” Cumpata said. “There have been some individuals who have stepped up to run committees and take charge. I will be here for support as they need me.”
The MCEDC works closely with government organizations and communicates with legislators about the environment for businesses in McHenry County.
“Speaking with one voice – breaking down the silos – proved beneficial in the area of transportation,” she said. “We now need to do that with other important issues.”
McHenry County is one of Chicago’s seven collar counties. “Our county measures up to other area counties quite well in regard to real estate and corporate taxes for businesses,” she explained. “We recently spoke to a company looking to move to Cary from Cook County.
“The real estate taxes that they were paying for their 20 acres plus their building were $500,000 a year. It would be much more cost effective here.”
The role of the MCEDC president is helpful to the cohesiveness of the McHenry County business community. Cumpata realizes that people often draw conclusions without knowledge of full information.
“My intention is to openly communicate so their perceptions about pressing issues are correct,” she said. “I know that building trust will take some time but it is monumental to our success. You have to get it all out on the table and make it clear.”
Preservation and Retention
When an economic development organization says “growth,” one customarily thinks of building on open space. Cumpata, however, is striving to redirect that notion.
“Retention is absolutely critical to maintaining what exists today,” she said. “Every time we lose a business, we affect the schools, public service and public safety. Sales tax contributes and enhances our county; and that affects everybody. This organization is not for just preserving open space, but we are looking for retention of what we have, business-wise, so that we grow the community – not necessarily in footprint but in revenue.”
Industrial growth plays into sustainability and needs to be addressed in our county. Challenges and opportunities alike are afforded to corporations, as well as communities.
“Sustainability – whether it is of the environment or of an organization – is fluid and needs to be constantly nurtured,” she added.
Through the years, the MCEDC has lost some supporters. Turning this decline around is on Cumpata’s agenda as well. “When you show people that you have got the guts to take a look at your organization, re-tool it, restore it, reenergize it and strengthen it, you can build trust once again,” she said.
Through the MCEDC, local business leaders have a platform to be heard and a round-table environment at which to listen to other community leaders.
Another tier of focus for Cumpata is to teach the next generation of business owners in order to inspire continued success in the county. We look at the numbers of McHenry County residents who work outside of the county – perhaps 50 to 60 percent – and know that we are losing valuable assets,” she said. “We have talent in our own county that needs to be cultivated.”
Cumpata said she knows that it’s critical to streamline communications to the county residents about local matters.
“Look at traffic issues, for example,” she explained. “Timeliness is the key to getting changes accomplished. In order to move past phase one of many design and environmental issues we need to stay proactive.”
Cumpata has the desire and the experience to do the job well, she said. Prior to starting her new post, she began as a MCEDC volunteer and then advanced to a board member and treasurer.
With a background of more than 20 years in the banking and financial industries, Cumpata brings to the MCEDC skills well beyond business development.
“The MCEDC needs to build on developing relationships with business owners, as well as solving problems and then connecting them to other people who can help advance their businesses,” she said. “We need to encourage more communication, reach out and talk to business owners.”
This McHenry County native has ties to the land dating back to the 1870s. Cumpata’s grandparents had a farm in Harmony, near Marengo, and her mother went to a little schoolhouse in Harmony. Her investment in McHenry County runs deep and she said she is ready to lead the charge.