Coming up with a good idea is the easy part. Any time I visit a community or even here in my adopted hometown of Lansing I come up with tons of great ideas that will make the place better. I’ve filled all of the storefront vacancies in Lansing’s downtown in my mind. When I travel to different towns I find myself imagining what I’ll do with green space (if anything), where I’d put a farmers market and figuring out a prime space for mixed-use development. I’m obviously not the only person with good ideas. Our communities regularly go through visioning processes and plan for how their town will look in the future.
Our problem isn’t lack of vision or lack of good planning. The sticking point comes in implementation. Implementing these good ideas takes strategy, and it takes financial resources. Following a decade of significant cuts to local revenue in the form of property taxes and state revenue sharing, sometimes filling vacancies in the downtown isn’t the top priority. We still have to ensure basic service needs are met – filling potholes, providing public safety, etc. And sometimes even providing basic services is a challenge when budgets are hit hard.
One of my goals with the foundation is to give our members the luxury of thinking beyond the plan. Maybe it’s by brainstorming new partners who can ultimately provide financial resources. Maybe it’s by connecting them directly with grant opportunities. Or maybe it’s by connecting them with our internal team to prioritize and figure out what portions of their plan are doable in the short term.
Planning is an important part of great communities, but the plans aren’t effective if they’re stuck on the shelf. Think about who your community partners are, and work to get those plans implemented. Give us a call too. We’re happy to help!