Sunday, January 1, 2017

Long Range Plans and Strategies for Small Town Success

I was recently reading an article on “Strategies for Small Town Success.” It stated that leaders in struggling rural communities and small towns often pin their hopes for economic prosperity on the recruitment of a large manufacturing plant to “save” their town. Many small towns are sure that their big break is just around the corner, if only they can come up with the right financial incentives and industry recruitment strategy. Sounds like Summerton?

An unfortunate consequence of relying on strategies that focus exclusively on industrial recruitment is that many communities undervalue, or don’t understand, the importance of other key factors contributing to a strong local economy. For example, existing business retention and expansion, entrepreneurial development of new small businesses, agritourism, historic attractions, and encouraging growth of retiree communities often receive short shrift when compared to industrial recruitment efforts. As the town updates its long range Strategic Plan, keep this in mind.

According to the article, it turns out that successful strategies best practices for small town development typically include the following key elements:
  • Create and maintain a widely shared Vision and long range Strategic Plan for a viable, dynamic future for your community;
  • Involvement of community leaders and concerned citizens are key to creating and carrying out the Strategic Plan;
  • Leveraging local businesses and existing community assets are key to success;
  • Join with other nearby towns, the county Chamber of Commerce, and regional community development groups to maximize access to needed resources;
  • Track, report, and celebrate progress as planned objectives are achieved.
  • Encourage investment in 21st Century Infrastructure – Internet, education, telecommunications, solar energy...
  • Always remember, Outdoor Recreation, AgriTourism, History, Nature, Festivals, and local Arts & Crafts will help create a more complete experience for residents and visitors alike.

Selected Articles

Thinking about the town of Summerton and the surrounding area by beautiful Lake Marion, one of our major strengths lies in the abundance of opportunities for participating in outdoor activities like hunting, fishing, camping, golfing, birding, hiking, biking, kayaking, and eco-tourism. It quickly becomes apparent that for outdoor enthusiasts and vacationers, this area may be one of the best places to visit on the East coast. As the town proceeds with the development of the next iteration of its long range Strategic Plan this year, lets remember this.

In addition to the outdoor activities and abundant wildlife, Summerton and the surrounding area also have a rich history encompassing the settlement of the area by Native American tribes, such as the Catawba and Santee Indians, many hundreds of years before the first European settlers arrived. Couple this with the exploits of the ‘Swamp Fox’ General Francis Marion during the Revolutionary War, General Potter's Union Army raid during the Civil War, key events related to national school desegregation, and you can see why the area attracts so many visitors to the area.

Clarendon County's economic development activities are heavily focused on bringing manufacturing and other new businesses to the area, which also benefits inhabitants of Summerton and the surrounding area in many ways. However, Summerton is already benefiting from a different 'informal' strategy by the local business community that has focused more heavily on catering to vacationers and retirees attracted by the rich history, outdoor activities, wildlife, and the traditional small town values of our town.

It would appear that current efforts to develop an updated 'formal' long range strategy for growth and success of Summerton should involve getting the entire community to think, work, and act together to help concentrate efforts on attracting visitors and retirees to the town and the surrounding area. In turn, tourism and retirement communities will bring all sorts of new 'service industries' and businesses into the area to meet their needs.

Think about it. Does this make sense to you? As the town of Summerton develops the next iteration of its 'formal' long range plan and strategy, what should it contain? What does the community want? What specific projects and tasks should we begin to actively pursue? Share your thoughts with our readers.




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