Exclusive: Rhodora Annexation Reaches 60%

Working with several landowners, we recently submitted a 60% notice of intent to annex the Rhodora Area to the City of Lake Stevens.  Getting to this milestone was not easy.

The effort began last September with an analysis of the area and determination of which method of annexation method to pursue, deciding to move forward with a direct petition method annexation.

Since then we’ve spent months reaching out and meeting with nearly every property owner in the annexation area to discuss the annexation and what it means.

You can learn more about the annexation at www.toyerstrategic.com/annex

But here are examples of how we have reached out:

Mailer #1

Door Hanger #2 (Front)

Door Hanger #2 (Back)

Mailer #3

Want to Succeed? Ditch the Stakeholders!

If I had a dollar for every time I saw a community bring together a group of “stakeholders” I’d be comfortably retired and if I had a second dollar for every stakeholder process that ended without an action, I’d be on one of Fortune Magazine’s money lists.

Now before you finishing lighting your torch and locating your pitchfork, let me explain.

Good Intentions Don’t Spark Action

The intent behind stakeholder committees/groups is very laudable: involve the public in a process, educate them on a challenge or opportunity, record their input and diffuse potential objections.

But most stakeholder processes today are generally failures.  They are poorly attended, poorly managed and orchestrated to be very limited in scope.  Stakeholders are usually limited to a position of review and respond – completely missing the opportunity to re-imagine processes and plans, rewrite strategies and goals, and resolve to take real actions.

This is why even out of the best plan or idea. . .stakeholders fade away and big ideas never materialize into results.

The Wrong Audience

I have come to believe that stakeholders may be the wrong audience.  Unlike investors or shareholders, they typically are not personally vested in an outcome.  Instead, by definition, a stakeholder is someone with an interest or concern in something.

This is the problem.  Having an interest or a concern doesn’t often merit action.  I’m interested in history.  I like to read about it, I like to watch programs about it.  I’ll even occasionally reference it.  But, my interest alone doesn’t compel me to take action.  For example, I am fascinated by presidential biographies, but at age 40 I just visited my first one and it is only an hour drive away from where I live.

A stakeholder is no different.  They are curious, they may have a question about the topic and they may want to offer an opinion.  But they generally have no desire to be responsible for the outcome.

A New Concept for Results: Coalitions

I believe it’s time to gather fewer stakeholders and instead build more coalitions.  It’s time to move away from asking people to serve in an “advisory” capacity and ask them at the outset to serve in an “achievement” role.  And even more importantly, put them in a role where their recommendations carry some actual weight in not only creating the plan, but initiating the action.

My only worry is that the term coalitions too often creates a negative reaction or visual depiction of being either “activism” or “political action” or, in rare cases, “extremism.”

However, we need to remember that real coalitions are far from this perception.  A coalition is simply individuals or groups that, in their own self-interest, cooperate in joint action.  The keywords in that sentence being “cooperate” and “action.”

What do you think?





A Common Failure in Economic Development

In February newspapers reported on a city council that was discussing the potential of defunding their economic development department a mere 3 years after its creation and 12 months after it had become fully staffed.  Read Story

Even more troublesome?  The city completed a 62 page comprehensive economic development strategic plan on November 6, 2016 – just four months before this discussion took place.  We reviewed the comprehensive plan and it’s clear they spent a lot of money to develop the strategy.

Unfortunately, this is an all to common occurrence in many communities across the U.S.  Here’s five major reasons why city led economic development efforts are NOT WORKING:

  1. City funded economic development departments often lack an actionable strategy and the views of elected leaders on “what is economic development” often don’t align with how economic developers do what they do.
  2. To develop a formal strategy, cities usually hire a consultant to complete a comprehensive strategic plan with market analysis, a regurgitation of every community plan before it, design sketches of what areas of the community could look like in the future, and other ‘fluff’ that many consultants sell like candy to a toddler.  These plans are expensive and they are usually light on the actions that need to be taken and how those actions will be completed (implementation).
  3. Economic development isn’t cheap and when a city (or county) budget fluctuates, economic development is often viewed as a luxury best afforded when times are good.  When the choice is between public safety and economic development, you know who will win that battle.
  4. Economic development doesn’t happen overnight and without a clear strategy (with clear expectations and timelines) that elected leaders, staff and the public can understand, it’s nearly impossible to show a return on investment (ROI) in an era where everyone wants the pay-back on their investment to begin immediately.
  5. Cities often times fund economic development just enough to hire the qualified staff, leaving them without the resources to do their jobs effectively.

How can this be overcome?

  1. Clarity.  A city investing in an economic development department must have a clear and common vision for what economic development means for the community.  For example, is it retail development or tourism or new industry attraction?  Each of these requires a different approach, comes with a different set of actions and happen over different timelines.  If that isn’t reconciled first, then expect trouble ahead, especially if a city (or county) believes economic development is all of those things.  That’s when priorities need to be established, because no 1-3 person staff can expertly focus on all of it at once.
  2. Simplicity.  Spending 6-12 months and $100s of thousands of dollars on complex market studies, sub-area plans, design standards and all the rest that cities (and counties) typically ask for in a comprehensive economic development strategy can be too complicated for the first action and create unreasonable expectations.  Thus, before biting off a comprehensive plan, a city (or county) needs to adopt a basic and implementable strategy that flows from the common vision (discussed in “Clarity” above) and addresses the top economic development priorities.  This establishes a short term work plan and is the precursor to additional planning and analysis.  Vague strategy like “develop the retail corridor” is bound to fail.
  3. Prioritize results over extravagance.  Cities (and counties) should prioritize results and momentum over more elaborate, extravagant and expensive planning projects.  Starting with the comprehensive plan may be a good idea when you are a well-funded private (or semi-private) economic development organization, but when you’re a newer, publicly funded economic development program the public perception is your spending lots of money and then the expectation for results ratchets up and quickens in urgency.
  4. Planning isn’t an accomplishment.  Cities (and counties) need to realize that completing the plan isn’t an economic development “accomplishment” nor is how much you spent on the plan and measure of how good your program will be?
  5. Another way.  Here’s an alternative to starting with comprehensive planning efforts.  Hire a consultant (or facilitator that understands economic development) to lead elected leaders, staff and a few citizen and business stakeholders through the creation of a vision and common understanding of economic development followed by prioritizing some initial action items and a timeline implementation of additional planning steps.  At fraction of a cost, this truncated strategy can help a city avoid the pitfalls we’ve discussed and more quickly demonstrate progress, build momentum and produce early wins.

Disclosure: we are not working for the city referenced in this example, but we are confident we could help.

If Growth Management is Chess. . .

What we see depends mainly on what we look for.” – Sir John Lubbock

In chess the opportunity to trade moves is often a terrible strategy that will lead to playing into an opponent’s trap. Hence why chess draws comparisons to military strategy, focusing less on winning battles and more on winning wars.

Similarly, in dealing with Growth Management, the strategies of those developing projects need to be focused on their immediate moves, but to be truly successful they have to have a long game for how to win.

So what’s your next move?

Now that the development industry as a whole has suffered some major legal setbacks (see Snohomish County, et al v. Pollution Control Hearings Bd., et al, 92805-3) and residential developers/builders continue to cope with an ever shrinking building lands supply, as well as complex and changing regulation, businesses have to ask themselves some strategic questions:

  1. What’s the next fight for your business and how hard are you willing to fight to move a project forward?
  2. And, if you fight, what resources do you truly need?
  3. Are their opportunities in the coming years to stake out a claim to land that may be added to urban growth areas (UGAs) and then work within the forthcoming processes to play this to your favor?
  4. What gambles might your business be willing to take to maintain a pipeline of lot supply?

This is where we can help.

Toyer Strategic Consulting has been working on the battlefield where growth management policy and real estate development clash for the past 15 years.  We’ve helped companies (and a few communities) successfully address each of these key questions and implement a plan of action to accomplish the end goal(s).

From identifying opportunities in long range planning where companies may be able to move land into the UGAs to nuancing the politics and processes that shape local land use policy, we understand the positioning and preparation real estate businesses need to complete and win should they wish to get aggressive to sustain success.

Contact us for a free consultation today


Why Nothing Happens . . .

48077572 - close-up view on conceptual keyboard - implementation (blue key)We see it far too often.  A community hires a consultant and invests time and money in creating a new plan. The plan is presented, the vision is celebrated, people are excited and hopeful, and . . .

Nothing. . .

Sometime down the road the same community (not wishing to repeat the inaction of its last effort) hires a new consultant and invests time and money into a new effort to create a buzz-worthy “action plan” or “strategic plan” and . . .

Still nothing. . .


Because planning is an exercise.  Yes, planning is an action , but it’s also measured, defined and limited in effort to achieve a singular outcome: the plan.  Planning is not an accomplishment.  Planning is defined very clearly:

The act or process of making a plan or plans

Implementation is a separate beast.  But, implementation produces accomplishment.  Defined, implementation means:

The process of putting a decision or plan into effect; execution.

So what is the solution for the community that never seems to stop planning?  Implementation.

Our approach (and the advice we give our clients and prospective clients) is that any time they create a plan, they need to seamlessly follow up on that process by defining how that plan will be implemented and who will be responsible for implementation.  And for our clients that want to be overachievers, we advise them through the process of taking the first few steps of implementing the plan.

Want more resources?

Before Strategic Planning, Read This

The Tale of Two Cities: the Planner and the Achiever