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Strategic Planning in Kansas:
Survey Results

Prepared by
Genna M. Ott Assistant Dir., KCCED
Research Assoc., IPPBR

Prepared for
Kansas, Inc

December 1997
Report No. 242

Executive Summary

Strategic Planning in Kansas

In 1990, the Kansas Legislature passed the Community Strategic Planning Assistance Act (CSPA), a program that provided funds to non-metropolitan counties in Kansas to develop strategic plans for economic development and to finance strategies in those plans. This program, which was administered by the Kansas Department of Commerce and Housing (KDOC&H), has been utilized by over 90 percent of the counties in Kansas. The legislation calls for Kansas, Inc. to evaluate the program two years after the last planning grant was awarded (July 1991). As one component of their evaluation effort, Kansas, Inc. contracted with the Kansas Center for Community Economic Development (KCCED) at the University of Kansas to conduct a survey of nonmetropolitan counties in Kansas. The survey asked local leaders and participants about their strategic planning efforts with regards to economic development.

During August and September of 1997, the Survey Research Center at the University of Kansas surveyed 275 local leaders and participants from 93 counties in Kansas. Two surveys were conducted: Leaders and Participants. A leader was defined as "the person most knowledgeable about the economic development strategic planning process" for the county. A participant was classified as a person "involved with the economic development efforts" of a community or county. Participant names were generated from published lists, such as chambers of commerce, economic development organizations, county commissioners, and city managers. Local leaders were also asked to submit names for potential participants in the study.

Leaders were asked questions about 1) the planning process followed by the county, 2) implementation of the plan, and 3) opinions regarding strategic planning. Participants were asked about their opinions regarding strategic planning. Community leaders and participants come from both the public and private sectors and held high level professional positions within the community such as executive director/president of the local economic development organization (includes chambers of commerce), city manager, county commissioner, city mayor, and director of economic development.

The results of the survey show that the strategic planning for economic development has been a popular and useful exercise for Kansas' counties. Almost all the counties in Kansas have developed plans and most of the plans have been approved or adopted by a local government entity. The majority of plans are also being implemented and local government and economic development organizations are accepting responsibility, including financial responsibility, for implementation. The plans are also being updated, supporting the notion that strategic planning is an on going process.

Strategic planning in Kansas has been a highly successful effort. It has involved leadership from both the public and private sector and has forged partnerships between city, county, and state governments along with private sources to finance the efforts. In general, those counties that have developed a strategic plan say that the planning process was "a useful exercise" for the county and that the plans are addressing important issues. They say that the county has improved capacity to shape its economic future and that the local economy is better off as a result of the planning effort.

Forty-nine counties in the Leaders Survey said they had updated their strategic plans and about one-third of those said they used state dollars to do so. However, only two counties indicated that the availability of state money was their main reason or incentive for updating their plan. Fifty-one percent said their main reason for updating was the need to have a current plan for eligibility for state programs, such as Enterprise Zone status, action grants and tax incentives.

It is important that the state continue to provide assistance that will enhance economic development at the local level through programs like the CSPA program. Forty-eight percent of the leaders and participants surveyed said that state assistance was "very important, would not plan without it." Another thirty-four percent indicated that it was "important, helps us have a better plan." Only seven percent said that state assistance was "not important, would continue without it." The kinds of assistance that are considered important by leaders and participants include both financial and technical assistance.

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