Franklin County NC, Economic Development llll – Part l: Popping a ‘red star cluster’ for county’s economy
By Steve Trubilla
Support Franklin County Business-Buy your produce from a Franklin County farmer.
The truck driver drives the truck, the carpenter builds a house, the ditch digger digs ditches, and the butcher butchers, etc. At the end of their work week, you can see what they have done.
The reality of private industry is that if you do not produce, you are fired. It does not matter what your daddy’s name is when it comes to carrying your own weight.
Political officials along with executive county employees need to understand clearly they are only needed if they serve the interest of the people.
Customer service is their product.
The nature of bureaucracy is such that it does not yield easily to accountability. It justifies its failures and feeds on itself. An uninformed, disinterested public will, at best, breed mediocrity and foster complacency.
As you read this, take a step back and ask yourself what have you personally done lately to hold a public official accountable for anything?
When was the last time you went to a county commissioners’ meeting, or any meeting, and asked a question?
This, by the way, is a story unto itself and I may speak more to it in a future article. Just getting most officials to answer a question seems to be asking too much.
Let me ask, if you literally paid tens of millions of dollars for something and found out the person you gave the money to had no real plan as to what he/she was doing, would it make you angry?
Would it? Well, hold on to your shorts. I am about to tell you the uncensored truth about Franklin County’s Economic Development Strategic Planning.
In the military, when there is an immediate need for assistance, someone will pop a flare called a red star cluster. This puts everyone on notice.
That is what this article is – a red star cluster.
As I continued to probe the issue of economic development, I found myself asking the question: What is the plan?
I mean the real plan, you know the big picture? Strategically where are we going and how are we going to get there?
I began to ask very pointed questions, researched what I was being told and asked more questions.
Here is a sample of what I found. In March of 1998 a document was produced titled, Franklin County Forward – Strategic Planning for the 21st Century. It is an extraordinary, well-written document that contains a vision for the future.
On 13 November 1996 the first meeting of a Steering Committee met to initiate action. There were over 100 people involved with this. Given the depth of this document and the overall effort, it must have consumed thousands and thousands of man hours to put it together.
Here is a capture from page 2 of the 1998 document: A strategic plan has three advantages that make its use for local government planning desirable. It is the ABC’s for logical planning. (A) It is a process that requires much input from the “people,”; (B) It is written clearly and succinctly, spelling out “who” should do “what” to help achieve goals, and the “what” to help achieve goals along with the “when” to do, and the “how” it is to be done. (C) (I want to emphasize this one; I am quoting it word for word.) “It requires regular monitoring so that it can be implemented. If it is set on a shelf for more than three months at a time it becomes stale and obsolete.”
I requested notes, minutes, reports, and or briefs that would document activity relative to the 1998 plan. Remember (C) above, a review every three months or the Plan was obsolete. I was told these documents were not available and or the Franklin County Economic Development Office did not have them. I was trying to substantiate benefits and/or productivity realized from the process. Absent these documents, I cannot do so.
Applying reasonable thinking and given the scope of the 1998 Strategic Plan, if it produced meaningful results, volumes of documents should have been the product of that effort. Additionally, the nature of strategic planning is such that the past corporate record is critical to future progress.
How do you measure progress if you do not have bench marks to measure from? Why would anyone simply throw those records away?
My conclusion is it was a well thought out plan that was simply not acted on. One could argue this, however my counter is simply, if it was, why was it scrapped and replaced with a watered down version?
Now let us project forward. On 20 and 21 January 2010, a collaborative retreat was convened to “plan a map for economic development in Franklin County.”
The purpose was to create a Strategic Plan for Franklin County’s economic development. The document was crafted, is considerably less comprehensive than the previous one, and had considerably less community interface.
The principle participants with this effort included the office of Economic Development, The board of county commissioners, the county manager, county departments, and quoted from the document “stakeholders.”
It was de’ja’ vu, the same wheel reinvented but not as strong. You guessed it; you paid for it – again. Zero accountability for failing to implement the 1998 plan. Not a mention of it anywhere, as if it did not happen.
Well, it did! I have a copy of the 1998 plan.
It gets better from here. The current Franklin County Strategic Plan for Economic Development was published sometime in 2010. It clearly states there are goals and objectives to be followed, monitored and reported on.
I would like to tell you when the document was published. I cannot, it is not even dated! It is, however, published on the county website.
Now let’s see if we can find a pattern here. Look into your crystal and see if you can predict the future?
Next Week more on this story ...
The Southern Franklin Republican Club meets at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 26 at the Youngsville Community House, 115 E. Main Street.
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