7 Reasons Your Community Needs a New Strategic Plan to Grow

7 Reasons Your Community Needs a New Strategic Plan to Grow Main Photo

25 Oct 2021

News, Strategic Planning

If there is one thing economic developers have in common, it’s a strategic plan to grow.  Experience has taught them that taking a measured, proactive approach is a cornerstone to success. Have you put off creating a new strategic plan? 

Here are seven reasons to make creating a strategic plan your priority

1.) A strategic plan brings community partners together.

According to Lisa Hurley, Executive Director of York County Development in Nebraska, good communication and solid collaboration between government agencies and nonprofits is essential when it comes to tackling issues. "We can't solve every issue by ourselves. It takes collaboration,” she says. Hurley goes on to stress the importance of updating the strategic plan annually, and making sure that it’s carefully aligned with the community’s marketing plan, content strategy, and calendar. Knowing that a strategic plan can only provide value if it’s utilized, her team meets on a regular basis to review their plan and discuss their progress.

2.) A strategic plan provides a malleable template.

No two communities are alike. Each has its quirks, challenges, strengths, and weaknesses. The benefit of a good strategic plan is that it can serve as a proactive starting point to map out success for the individual community, while allowing latitude to respond to unexpected challenges. The weather events and pandemic of 2020 are examples of a need to pivot for external reasons. In addition, every community must be poised to adapt to internal changes   as key economic development professionals move to other regions, board members change, and the makeup of many communities changes with time.

Growing communities, in particular, need to be nimble. Pflugerville, TX the third fastest growing city in the United States. Amy Madison, their Executive Director of Community Development says, "Getting a strategic plan in place has been the secret sauce for me. It has helped me make significant changes in every community I have ever been with . . . engaging with the community, with elected officials, and across cultures . . . the plan keeps us focused.” Madison goes on to say that creativity, listening, and being open to taking a fresh approach are essential components of using a strategic plan.

3.) A strategic plan helps you decide who you want to be.

Every successful community is striving to build a secure future. To make that happen, it’s imperative to  have a shared vision of what that future will look like. A good strategic plan paints a picture of that vision and outlines the goals, objectives, timelines, budgets, and metrics for measuring progress toward making that vision a reality. Planning as a team will help ensure that everyone involved feels  a sense of ownership for that vision. 

4.) A strategic plan creates better self awareness.

Put simply, creating a solid strategic plan starts with an analysis and in-depth self-reflection that will help provide an accurate assessment of your community’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and obstacles. Being armed with that unvarnished knowledge can help make your team more effective, better able to think outside the box while remaining grounded, and more forthcoming  when it comes to engaging in constructive dialogue. 

5.) A strategic plan helps you engage stakeholders.

Horton Hobbs IV, VP of Economic Development, Greater Springfield Partnership in Ohio says it takes real partnership to make progress. His strategy is built on a four-pronged approach: workforce development, economic development, training, and amplifying the work of community partners. Hobbs emphasizes collaboration by stating, “Don’t ever underestimate your role as a leader. Just because you aren’t seated at the head of the table doesn’t mean that your contributions aren’t important to making the community better.”

6.) A strategic plan gives every stakeholder a sense of purpose.

Building a community isn’t just about goals. It’s about relationships. Nothing solidifies relationships like a clear, unified vision. When people know their everyday efforts are building something meaningful, they’re happier, more effective, and more committed. Over the long run, it’s a sense of purpose that makes work meaningful. Meaningful work not only makes people happier, it also keeps them from losing focus, and strengthens their resolve to succeed when projects become particularly difficult. 

7.) A strategic plan will help you manage details.

Planning has a way of demystifying complex issues, and making elaborate projects manageable. Once goals are set, priorities become clear. With priorities in focus, defining roles, allocating resources, setting milestones, and delegating tasks is a logical, straightforward process. In other words, creating a strategic plan will help keep stakeholders from feeling overworked and overwhelmed. 

If there is one thing economic developers have in common, it’s a strategic plan to grow

Though creating a strategic plan may seem time-consuming at the outset, it will save you time, energy and resources in the long run. If your community has a strategic plan, it may be time to revisit it and see if it’s up-to-date. If you haven’t given yourselves the benefit of that essential tool, there is no time like the present to create a new strategic plan. Golden Shovel Agency can help your community achieve economic development success. For more information, contact us today.

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