In years to come, when we look back and ask ourselves questions like: What was the catalyst? What created the environment that businesses, industries and people in general wanted to be a part of? What was it that changed? The answer will likely be, Montgomery County created a comprehensive plan.
The comp plan process was a long one. We know now that going through the process is how a “vision” is identified. We did our due diligence as a community. Residents provided input, ideas and feedback and a true vision, a wish list for our community was crafted. We created what we want our community to look like tomorrow. As I often say, this was “the will of the people.”
The comp plan has served as a foundation for other decisions. From that vision, we have established:
• Economic development plan
The goal of this plan is to identify opportunities. One opportunity that surfaced through this process is that due to our geographic location, the major thoroughfares coming through our community, and the booming economies of our neighboring counties to the North and East, we could be the bedroom community for folks coming to work at jobs outside of our boundaries. Not only that, if we increased our community population by just a few thousand people, we could attract those retailers that many of us drive out of our county to access.
• Strategic plan
The strategic plan takes the information gleaned from the economic development plan and bores down into the details. It answers questions like: If we wish to be that bedroom community, what’s it going to take to
incentivize residential developers to build here? And What type of infrastructure is needed to support that kind of economic development?
• Marketing plan
The marketing plan was initiated because of what was learned in the strategic plan. We needed to tell our story. Not about where we’ve been, where we’re going. Let’s talk about all the things we’ve done to create an environment that people – developers and new residents alike - want to be a part of in the future.
• Dedicated county engineer
Our county now has a full-time engineer on staff. The first thing our engineer did was help us understand that we needed to have a process to prioritize the tax dollars we were spending on our roads. We didn’t have a clear process in place to make decisions about how to prioritize projects or identify specific maintenance and improvements individual roads needed.
• Thoroughfare plan
The thoroughfare plan is a comprehensive road improvement plan agreed to by our citizens as to what those priorities are, and to what standards the maintenance and improvements our roads and bridges need to be met.
• County administrator
Our county administrator came from a recommendation by the County Council. They were looking for some help with budgeting. Because of this new position, we’ve been able to correct many inefficiencies. At times, some things were not being done at all, putting us in a place of liability.
Additionally, the Commissioners have established a community outreach program including social media, monthly “Coffee with the Commish” events, and biweekly “Connect with the Commish” columns. The program is aimed at two-way communication with citizens and sharing information and feedback. It has been invaluable. Effective communication is paramount to our success as a whole. Holding the coffees and reaching out with our articles makes me a better public servant and I truly hope the citizens of Montgomery County have seen that.
All of this has been to lay the groundwork, or a new baseline, for our community to launch ahead. We’ve paved a clear path. I like to compare our growth and progress to building a house. Now that we have the foundation established, we can start putting up the walls, a roof, establish our interior design style and start our landscaping! A speaker at a recent conference described it as “getting your house ready for company to arrive.”
It will take time to build our community within the vision we have established, and our work will never be stagnant. We will ebb and flow with the tides of culture and community. I mean, we never stop learning, growing and bettering ourselves as individuals. Why should a community be any different?
In the coming months and into the next few years, we will see real, tangible, visible progress, improvements, changes, all as a result of the groundwork we have established. And all because of a community of people who could look forward to a future community we can all be proud of and in which people, families want to live, play and work. Let the hard work (and fun) begin!
John Frey is a Montgomery County Commissioner and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. And check out the Commish Facebook page @montgomerycountycommish. Also, mark your calendars for January 11th, 2020 for our next Coffee With the Commish!