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Thread: Economic development by way of volunteer committee: successful?

  1. #1
    Cyburbian zman's avatar
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    Economic development by way of volunteer committee: successful?

    We're a small town. About 2 years ago, the Town Board created an Economic Development Committee, of which I was orignally a citizen volunteer and then I became Chair after obtaining employment with the town and now I serve as staff liason. We're made up of about 8 people, all citizens of the town. Orignally the committee lacked direction and had an unmotivated leader, in 2008, I breathed some life into the committee getting a stronger base and then released it to the citizens, with one of them as chair. We have accomplished a couple of minor things in the field of promoting local businesses, but nothing substantial. Part of this is due to the local economy, but after last night, I believe part of this is due to leadership which includes myself, the Chair and the Town Board but also most of the committee members seem to have joined to say they are on a volunteer board...yet they do not do anything.

    Last night we met for July. All who showed up was the Chair and myself. We had a talk about the committee. He proposes ideas (some better than others) but there has been no follow through. On the ideas that work, he and one other member do the leg work for it with no help from anyone else. Bottom line, we need to get something done or he is out.

    Afterwards, I had a chance to reflect (with the help of a measure of scotch) on the committee. First, the Board created us to "do economic development", but we haven't a clear and concise direction from them as to exactly what they want us to do. We have a handsome budget, but without direction from the Board, I am reluctant to spend $$ from it for every random idea.
    Another is the fact that I can provide a bridge between the town and the committee, but I am very busy with numerous GIS project, zoning enforcement, and counter duties. It is hard for me to follow up and frankly, Econ. Dev. falls to a lower position.
    But another is the apathy of the volunteers. Seems they are apt to show up to the one meeting a month (except for July), but I rarely even get conversation from them during the meeting and no one volunteers for work. The couple of people that do volunteer are now reluctant to do so because they feel that others should share the load (rightly so, IMO).

    So, what will help this? A clear action plan? Work that gets done? Recognition for contributing members? Are there any successful stories out there?
    I will be looking into this further, but there is an interesting dynamic here involving a 5 year planner with little economic experience handling a group with none.
    You get all squeezed up inside/Like the days were carved in stone/You get all wired up inside/And it's bad to be alone

    You can go out, you can take a ride/And when you get out on your own/You get all smoothed out inside/And it's good to be alone
    -Peart

  2. #2
    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
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    What you describe is not uncommon. Volunteer boards seldom volunteer for mor ethan board meetings. Without professional staff, it is usually a city employee or sometimes a dedicated activist who makes things happen. The committee does not.

    One thing that might help is to define priorities and then develop a work plan to meet them. It may be possible to get stakeholders to tackle individual tasks, which would help to accomplish things. Also, you might consider investing in some research and preparation (information) for potential prospects, and some training for the people who will be active in carrying out economic development functions.
    Anyone want to adopt a dog?

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    Cyburbian zman's avatar
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    I have thought about training, maybe some materials or archived Powerpoint presentations. But we're doing that with our Planning Commission now and I am how well that is going (not well at all).

    After posting the initial post, I began writing a "manifesto" of sorts, taking an Action Plan book that I have and customizing the direction within to conform to our town.

    It is something of a start and we'll see where things go after this.
    You get all squeezed up inside/Like the days were carved in stone/You get all wired up inside/And it's bad to be alone

    You can go out, you can take a ride/And when you get out on your own/You get all smoothed out inside/And it's good to be alone
    -Peart

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    Your committee needs to recruit people who want to open businesses in the area, businesses that are in the area and property owners in the area. You need people will directly benefit to get involved and then either let them tell you what they need or bring in experts who can inform them what they can do.

    And by experts - I mean other businesses or property owners who have accomplished similar projects. Nothing is more effective than having peers tell them what has worked for them in the real world. The rest of the committee can then assist on those projects as opposed to expecting them to be the ones to start the projects.

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    Cyburbian zman's avatar
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    It looks as if this committee has been dissolved. No sooner had I dissolved the committee, then I had lunch with a prominent local business owner who wanted to discuss the beginnings of a business association.
    You get all squeezed up inside/Like the days were carved in stone/You get all wired up inside/And it's bad to be alone

    You can go out, you can take a ride/And when you get out on your own/You get all smoothed out inside/And it's good to be alone
    -Peart

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    Cyburbian zman's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by zmanPLAN View post
    It looks as if this committee has been dissolved. No sooner had I dissolved the committee, then I had lunch with a prominent local business owner who wanted to discuss the beginnings of a business association.
    UPDATE here, it looks as if my group will join up with the dedicated business owner (our world famous bar here) to work ont he business association. We are having a forum of the business this month to discuss the ideas.
    My committee, while formed with good intent, was more keen on helping the local businesses reach out. With my segment of committed volunteers putting their efforts to this endeavor, I see better times ahead.

    My role has been placed as a liason to this association (when it forms) and I will focus on the efforts to help new businesses through the Town Hall.
    You get all squeezed up inside/Like the days were carved in stone/You get all wired up inside/And it's bad to be alone

    You can go out, you can take a ride/And when you get out on your own/You get all smoothed out inside/And it's good to be alone
    -Peart

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