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Thread: Rigors of Private Planning Practice #4: Growing the Business

  1. #1
    Cyburbian Wannaplan?'s avatar
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    Rigors of Private Planning Practice #4: Growing the Business

    Your business does the usual: master plans, zoning ordinances, area studies, and site plan reviews. It's all good - gives you a paycheck and a small, but nice bonus each year. But if you could, what are the one or two areas your business lacks that you would like to see grow?

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    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
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    I am not a consultant, but I will add my perspective of what I would like to see from them. One thing that most lack is real economic development consulting, whether that may be business strategies or neighborhood improvement initiatives, either as stand-alone plans or incorporated into comprehensive planning. Consultants will try to provide that using their usual planning staff, and most fall far, far short in their efforts.
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  3. #3
    I agree with Cardinal.

    I would add comprehensive environmental reviews. You can find phase I or phase II folks out there, but they're like archaeological chemists -- they'll only take you so far. Somebody needs to be able to pull the whole brownfield redevelopment stategies together, including the scientific stuff, IMO.
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    Cyburbian Emeritus Chet's avatar
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    I agree with cardinal too. I would beef up our economic development offerings, but also would enhance some of our urban design staff. We have excellent landscape architects and graphics staff, but we lack some of the emphasis on building layout and placement, facade renderings, and it can hindes the site context.

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    When I was consulting, I wanted to move into stream restoration and other water quality planning projects. It is just about impossible to do so without being in with an engineering firm, however, regardless of what you can bring to the table. One of the reasons the new job in Vermont is good is that I get to take the lead in some stream restoration projects and stormwater work.

    What I find most consulting firms lack is expertise/experience in constructive, successful public involvement.

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    Cyburbian mike gurnee's avatar
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    Amen to Lee. I dismissed our last firm doing a citizen participation project.

  7. #7
    Cyburbian Wannaplan?'s avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Cardinal
    One thing that most lack is real economic development consulting, whether that may be business strategies or neighborhood improvement initiatives, either as stand-alone plans or incorporated into comprehensive planning.
    But what about the flipside? I hear no one asking for economic development planning services in my area. If your company has the expetise to take on this type of project, but the city managers, township supervisors, or various councils and boards don't know they could benefit from such a plan, how do you sell those services and secure a contract?

  8. #8
    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Wanigas?
    But what about the flipside? I hear no one asking for economic development planning services in my area. If your company has the expetise to take on this type of project, but the city managers, township supervisors, or various councils and boards don't know they could benefit from such a plan, how do you sell those services and secure a contract?
    There is a bit of a selling job that needs to be done. The engineering firms are a good example, with the way they sold their services when all of the brownfield initiatives were begun about 8-10 years ago. The came to communities, identified the opportunities, and sold their investigation and remediation capabilities. Unfortunately, they did not match remediation with economic development. Had economic development consultants approached communities instead, they might have focused on the redevelopment potentials instead of the environmental clean-up. The resulting projects might have been far different.

    (Where planners promoted redevelopment, the same problem is true. From a planning perspective, the redevelopment projects are good, but there are few examples that really integrate redevelopment of a site into a larger vision for neighborhood improvement or business district revitalization.)
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  9. #9
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    A true economic development consultant

    I couldn't agree more that there are few true economic development consultants out there. Several years ago, while working in local govt, I received a proposal from a company called Camoin Associates that really seemed to differentiate itself as an economic development firm. I believe that they are out of either Saratoga or NYC and can be found online at www.camoinassociates.com

    Quote Originally posted by Cardinal
    I am not a consultant, but I will add my perspective of what I would like to see from them. One thing that most lack is real economic development consulting, whether that may be business strategies or neighborhood improvement initiatives, either as stand-alone plans or incorporated into comprehensive planning. Consultants will try to provide that using their usual planning staff, and most fall far, far short in their efforts.

  10. #10
    Cyburbian Wannaplan?'s avatar
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    Here's another possible area to help grow your business. I don't know, maybe this is coming out of left-field, but have any private sector Cyburbanites ever had a client from a non-profit organization? If so, is the fee any different for them from your typical set of governmental clients? How did you reach out to them?

    Since many of these non-profits are comunity-based organizations, I would assume they prefer to go with local consultants they know and have trusted. Perhaps the non-profit community isn't able to afford the private sector consultant fees. However, when I was a grad student, there was an umbrella organization for over a dozen Detroit-based non-profits called the Gateway Communities Development Collaborative. They pooled their money and hired a high-profile consulting firm in the southeast Detroit area to develop a land use plan for the southwest Detroit area.

    I am sure it is rare, but have any of you scored a project with a non-profit?

  11. #11

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    When I was consulting I did projects for a United Way and for a couple of regional conservation organizations, including demographic analyses, training on land use implementation tools, citizen participation campaigns, and expert testimony. I did not make much money doing this, although I made a more or less normal rate on the citizen participation project and some of the training, but it was a refreshing change from working for local governments.

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