Economic Development Strategic planning is one of the most important tools that a municipality can use to bring together the public, municipal staff and members of Council in the development of a common economic vision, direction and goals for a community. It can also function as an accounting mechanism, allowing management and the public to evaluate progress and ensure that the municipality is moving in the right direction.
Rather than simply reacting to change, municipalities can use the strategic planning process to examine issues and concerns with the goal to creating a community that is sustainable, providing opportunities for business and economic growth, a healthy lifestyle, and protecting its social and cultural connections.
A key consideration to the review and updating of the economic development plan will be the degree of community engagement and support that is secured. Our approach to the consultation effort ensures that the plan is informed by a broad range of perspectives, experiences and ideas for moving the city forward, and an understanding of the challenges and opportunities that confront the city and the actions required to ensure lasting and sustainable economic growth. Consultation is essential to reflect on the local knowledge of the city and region, and an appreciation for the broader goals, values and aspirations that are emerging for the city itself.
In order to solicit the broadest range of input and ensure that information is made available in a timely way throughout the process, the following engagement activities are being undertaken:
- Stakeholder Interviews – Selected interviews with business leaders are being conducted by telephone and in person. These interviews will provide insight into the local economic advantages and challenges in running a business in Spruce Grove.
- On-Line Surveys – Two surveys will be deployed through a web-enabled tool, Survey Monkey. One survey will target local and regional business leaders asking a series of questions pertaining to business climate, gaps and opportunities, incentives and infrastructure. A second survey will target local and regional residents asking a series of questions pertaining to the quality of life in Spruce Grove, gaps and opportunities, community vision and needs.
- Interviews with City Staff – Interviews with municipal staff are being conducted by telephone and in person. These interviews will provide insight into the local economic advantages and challenges in administering economic development objectives.
- Public Meeting – At the end of the consultation process a public meeting will be held that will invite the general public to comment on the draft strategy. A PowerPoint presentation will be provided prior to the meeting that will reflect on current issues, economic conditions and proposed refocuses. The public will be tasked to assist in providing feedback on the final product.
- Council Meetings – Council will be engaged on two occasions. The first occasion will introduce the project and seek initial feedback on the process. The second ocassion will seek feedback on the draft report.
A Three Stage Approach
The Economic Development Strategy Update will implement a three stage process. This process will answer the following key questions: Where are we now? Where do we want to go? How do we get there?
Our ‘where are we now’ stage is focused on a comprehensive assessment of Spruce Grove’s current economic situation, together with an inventory of community assets that inform the City’s economic development and marketing efforts; a perspective on the positive and negative aspects of locating a business in Spruce Grove; and the City’s role and impact on the broader regional economy.
Our ‘Where do we want to go’ stage is focused on the consultation requirements of the project. This stage will provide a clear understanding of the comparative advantages of the community and what they hope to achieve in the future. It also is effective in identifying “gap” areas or constraints to economic development. The primary outcome of this phase will be an assessment of the strategic directions set out in the existing economic development strategy and the identification of potential changes or refocus based on present conditions.
Our ‘How do we get there’ stage identifies the objectives and tactics that need to be undertaken in order to support the City’s economic and business development efforts and the meet the needs of the stakeholder community. An important consideration in this regard will be the development of economic development metrics that provide elected officials, EDAC and the target audience for the strategy with an appreciation of the nature and competitiveness of Spruce Grove’s economy.