Challenging times bring opportunity: why community planning now is critical

Construction equipment for the OSU campus extension
It is imperative that communities position themselves for funding. Public sector projects that are ready to go, and have completed all requisite preliminary work, will be the winners of those funds.

Planning has always been the path forward to address, and prepare to act upon various circumstances, challenges, and opportunities that communities face. Even in the best of times, when creating the path forward seems clear, resources are available, and things seem to be on track, the landscape can change without notice. Who has forgotten the great recession?

Communities now find themselves facing unprecedented uncertainty and it is challenging communities in ways they couldn’t have predicted due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Leaders must lead their community through the moment while still working towards the future. Today’s challenges don’t need to inhibit looking towards tomorrow, in fact, quite the opposite. Planning can help manage uncertainty and provide a road map with flexibility as this crisis unfolds.

Communities are without doubt functioning with a high degree of stress around operations that have impacted the services and the ability to manage growth and development. Yet they continue to have regular demands on approval processes, continue to hold planning commission meetings, and continue to engage their community in important initiatives. All of these—sooner or later—need to be undergirded by rational planning.

Some benefits of continuing to plan include:

  • Creates information for potential stimulus funds
  • Identifies potential projects for potential stimulus funds
  • Provides a strong symbol that government is not idling, rather it is future-focused
  • Establishes—through the public process—an opportunity for civic re-engagement
  • Continues to provide critical input for city operations, e.g. zoning, capital planning, operation budget, etc.
  • Reinforces that planning is the means to move from uncertainty to greater predictability

According to Chris Vineis, president of Capital Partnerships, it is imperative that communities position themselves for this funding. “Congress is now debating COVID-19 funding assistance to state and local governments. If 2008-2009 is a precursor, public sector projects that are ready to go, and that have completed all requisite preliminary work, will be the winners of those dollars. Now is the time to prepare.”

Leaning into these uncertain times with purpose and confidence will not only help create a path through the moment but will also position communities for future success.

The future belongs to those who plan for it.