Strategic Planning

"Communities can be shaped by choice, or they can be shaped by chance. We can keep on accepting the kind of communities we get, or we can start creating the kind of communities we want." -Richard Moe

What is Strategic Planning?

Strategic planning is a long-term, future-oriented process of assessment, goal-setting, and decision-making that maps an explicit path between the present and a vision of the future. It relies upon careful consideration of a community's resources and environment and leads to priority-based resource allocation.



How do communities benefit from strategic planning?

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Both the product and process of strategic planning are important.

The product: A strategic plan provides a vision and roadmap for a community's future. It provides a foundation for strategic community management. It also helps community members to establish priorities and allocate limited resources to meet unlimited community needs and desires.

The process: Strategic planning leads to better decisions by providing abundant knowledge, expertise, and perspectives from all segment of a community. It also contributes to a more informed citizenry and often inspires a greater appreciation for the problems faced by local government officials. Finally, the process of strategic planning promotes a stronger sense of unity and cohesion within a community by producing a commitment to a common vision for the future.



How does ECDI help communities in this process?

ECDI provides communities with proven, experienced, and neutral facilitation and guides communities through the strategic planning process - from establishing a steering committee to producing a written plan and laying out a framework for its implementation.

During the process, ECDI staff members engage citizens and stakeholders in focused forums and discussions around the following questions: Where are we now? Where do we want to be? How do we get there? How do we measure our progress?

The strategic planning steps included below provide an overview of the step-by-step strategic planning process that ECDI has employed in communities throughout Alabama:

  1. Strategic planning steering committee is selected.
  2. Steering committee develops a mission statement.
  3. Steering committee conducts a visioning exercise/s.
  4. Steering committee is divided into three focus groups: economic development, infrastructure, and quality of life.
  5. Focus groups conduct an internal assessment and environment scan–SWOT analysis (i.e. strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats).
  6. Focus groups identify strategic issues, goals, and objectives for each of the three function areas.
  7. Focus groups develop an implementation plan that describes, in detail, action steps for accomplishing goals.
  8. An executive committee is selected to review, revise, and synthesize the work of individual focus groups.
  9. The steering committee meets to discuss, revise, and approve the strategic plan.
  10. The steering committee (executive committee) has ongoing responsibility for implementation of the strategic plan.



Where has ECDI led strategic planning efforts?

ECDI staff members have directed strategic planning efforts in communities across Alabama. Some of these communities are listed below. Please click on the links for information about these initiatives:

  • Economic Recovery Strategy for Alabama Counties Impacted by Hurricane Katrina (Copy of March 2007 Report)
    • Commissioned by the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs
    • CBER and UCED, University of Alabama; ECDI, Auburn University
  • City of Brewton
  • Bullock County (Vision Statement)
  • Town of Camp Hill (Alexander City Outlook Coverage)
  • Conecuh County Economic Development Authority
  • Town of Dauphin Island
  • Eufaula 2020 Plan (Vision Statement), (CNN Coverage), (Audubon International Case Study)
    • Created and facilitated a unique strategic planning process for the City of Eufaula based on the environmental principles of sustainable development.
    • Eufaula was recognized as the nation’s first “Sustainable Community” by Audubon International.
    • The planning process was featured on CNN.
    • Eufaula 2020 was nominated for the National Award for Smart Growth by the Environmental Protection Agency.
  • City of Gadsden
  • Gadsden Commercial Development Authority
    • Helped the City of Gadsden to create the state's first commercial development authority.
    • Facilitated the process that created the city's strategic plan for commercial development, including an operating plan for the new Gadsden Commercial Development Authority.
  • City of Graysville
  • Hale County (Vision Statement)
  • City of Headland (Vision Statement)
  • Town of Hurtsboro
  • Lee County Economic Development Plan (in process)
  • City of Northport (Mission Statement)
  • Pickens County
  • Poarch Creek Indians (Poarch Creek News Coverage)
  • Shelby County Economic Development Plan (Link to Plan)
    • Developed the economic development chapter of the Shelby County Comprehensive Plan.
    • Based on principles of sustainable development and design.
    • Received a national planning award.
  • Stockton
  • City of Sylacauga (Mission Statement)
  • City of Uniontown (Vision Statement)
  • City of Valley (Vision Statement), (The Valley Times Coverage)
  • Provided strategic planning and facilitation assistance to many statewide associations, university departments, and organizations throughout Alabama.



Can my community contract ECDI to facilitate our plan?

For more information about how ECDI can help your community or region with its strategic planning initiative, please contact Mike Easterwood at (334) 844-4704 or easterm@auburn.edu.

Last Updated: July 5, 2012

Economic & Community Development Institute | Extension Hall | Auburn, Alabama 36849
Phone: (334) 844-4704 | Fax: (334) 844-4709 |
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