Employing SWOT for Municipal Planning
Posted on by Courtney Hendricson
We all hear about SWOT but understanding what it means for your own community can be an important exercise for town leaders as they spend limited resources and make plans for the future.
Think about what your community does well. What are you known for? Are you the Bedding Plant Capital of Connecticut (spoiler alert-Cheshire is)? Home to the winning-est Little League team in the state? Do you produce a unique food item? Write these down and USE them in your marketing.
What separates you from your competitors? Our communities want to attract residents and businesses and thus, we need to highlight the qualities that help us stand out.
What are your tangible assets and resources: colleges? Shoreline? State park land? Popular tourist attraction like outlets or an aquarium?
Each of our towns has a unique value proposition and it is up to each of us to clearly identify and articulate it so that we can use it to our advantage!
We also all struggle, but in different ways. Our communities may lack utilities and that can be a hindrance to restaurant development in our downtown. Or maybe we lack the ability to bring our Boards and Commissions into agreement on how we want our town to move forward. Think about what is holding you back and identify ways to change.
Maybe you are eyeing another town that runs their youth recreation programs better or has more commercial businesses. Something that you can see your competitors doing better than you is often an incentive to make positive change.
Be honest about your resource limitations (yes, all of our municipal budgets are strapped) and get back to clarifying that value proposition so you know where your community excels.
With a handle on your strengths and weaknesses, start planning areas of potential growth – perhaps you want to bring water and sewer to a critical intersection or perhaps you want to rezone a few parcels to allow for mixed-use development where it makes the most sense in your town.
Ask your residents and businesses about their emerging needs and stay focused on the kinds of residents and businesses you want to attract more of. If it is young families you want to see, do you have housing options that they can afford? If it’s empty-nesters who want to downsize but stay in town, do you have residential options that are walkable to shops and services like medical care and banks?
Keep an eye out for negative attitudes or perceptions about your community. Do developers say it is tough to get through your land use process? Do residents wish there were more shopping options? Talk to folks to better understand potential threats to your community’s reputation and future so that you can turn them into opportunities.