Planning District and Chamber Launch Capital Region Collaborative
Bob Crum and Kim Scheeler describe collaborative effort of Richmond Regional Planning District Commission and Greater Richmond Chamber to develop strategic priorities for the region.
Joining us in the studio are Bob Crumb, the Executive Director of the Richmond Regional Planning District Commission and Kim Shieler, President of the Greater Richmond Chamber. They're here to talk about the Capital Region Collaborative. And, Mr. Crumb, first of all, your organization represents local governments in the greater Richmond area. Tell us what this collaborative effort is all about.
Crumb: The Capital Region Collaborative is a cooperative effort between government in the Richmond region represented through the Richmond Regional Planning District Commission and the local business community that is being coordinated through the Greater Richmond Chamber of Commerce. What we're in the process of doing is developing regional strategic plan that charts a future course for our community and identifies actions and ideas that we can pursue to improve the quality of life in the greater Richmond region.
Mr. Shieler this is an effort of cooperation between the local governments in the region and the business community, represented by your organization, the Greater Richmond Chamber. How was this concept brought about of cooperation between government and business?
Shieler: Well, I think it started with an understanding that we needed to do some things regionally to help move our area forward. And, the two groups that were most likely able to do that are the ones that have the authority to make it happen, which is the public entities; and the folks that have the desire and the drive and the willingness to help push that forward, which is the business community. And, so those two groups came together to take this on.
I know you have a draft proposal you call the Straw Man Draft that you've been presenting to various organizations around the area. What are some of the basic principles, first of all, of the draft?
Crumb: Well what we did was we sat down with a series of ten focus groups and they helped us identify some draft ideas that we're now taking around to various groups in the community and asking for input. Trying to learn what the community likes about the draft priorities; maybe any issues that we're identifying that cause them concern. And, we know we didn't get everything, so, what should be added to the list. We're walking that information around to the community now; we've already presented and received tremendous input from twenty groups and organizations throughout the Richmond region. Kim and I have about another 25 to thirty meetings, either scheduled or envisioned for the next several months; and we're really interested in that type of community engagement and feedback. It's very important that is not the PDC's plan or the Chamber's plan; we want to make this a community's plan. And, I think the community's been very helpful to us in providing input so we can finalize this information and provide good input into this process.
Mr. Shieler, there have been many efforts to promote regional cooperation over the years and many voluminous plans produced, as I'm sure you are aware. But, accomplishments have been more the exception than the rule. Why do you believe that this collaboration will be more successful?
Shieler: Well, I think one of the reasons it will be successful is one of the basic tenets of this group is once the issues and priorities are identified the next step is going to be to go out and find out what groups are already working on those issues. So, rather than trying to create new organizations to go out and attack the priorities, we're going to work with the groups that are already in place and we're going to find out what their successes have been and what are their barriers to success; and then, identify ways to help remove some of those barriers to success. So, it's really all about creating some synergy with folks that are already engaged and already care about the community and have been driving a lot of these issues for a long time. And, as a regional group, trying to see if we can do things to help move them forward and make them more successful.
Mr. Crumb, from your perspective on the government side, you know Virginia is somewhat unique among the states in having completely separate cities and counties. Is that going to be an impediment to bringing about meaningful regional cooperation?
Crumb: We don't think so. I understand that there are some perceived challenges with Virginia's system of government. But, take for instance Pennsylvania, where I came from. In Pennsylvania there are over 2,600 minor civil divisions, different units of government. And, if you would take one of our counties in Pennsylvania or in Florida, the state where Kim came from, one of our counties might have twenty to forty individual governments within them. In the Richmond region, we have nine government units and I think this process is a great opportunity to engage those governments in a collaborative effort with the local business community. I believe that will not hinder our success; our local government structure. I believe we can be very successful within this form of government and we think the Collaborative is a good vehicle to move that type of regional progress forward.
And, I see that the draft aspirations for the region are boiled down into three broad areas of exceptional quality of life, being attractive to all and economically vibrant. And, then built on those three foundations will be a number of other goals and objectives. How's the process going to actually work? Mr. Shieler?
Shieler: Well, once we've gotten the input, the seven different priorities that go with those aspirations, things such as social stability and awareness and educational optimization, economic development, the James River, different issues like. We will then go out for each of those issues and look for who are the groups that are working on those already. So, that's going to be the focal point; is what are the priorities--the priority issues--and who'se working on those and how do we pull them in and help them with their efforts and help drive what they're doing forward; and make it a little more focused and a little bit more strategic.
And you mentioned that to engage public support, you're going around and giving presentations. Mr. Crumb, if one of our listeners has an organization that might like to hear the presentation, how would they go about setting it up?
Crumb: Well, we would really encourage anyone that would like to become engaged in this effort to call us and we would be more than happy to set up a time to come out and speak to their group or organization. Encourage them to contact the Richmond Regional Planning District Commission offices at 323-2033; and our staff will be more than happy to arrange a time to come out and meet with their group or organization. No group is too large or too small. And another thing that I'd like to follow up on is what Kim said. There's something in this list of priorities for everyone--from the James River to education to business and economic development to goals to create a healthy community. We really think that the residents will enjoy this conversation becoming involved in this effort and we invite them to do so.
And what's the timetable for getting something concrete moving?
Crumb: We hope to be fairly far along on our public engagement, our public review process come the end of January, maybe into February. At that point Kim and I will be sitting down with our staffs to summarize the information that we received in the spring; and then we'll start taking a look at which ideas have the most support and working with our team to try to start fine tuning the priorities a little more as we head into next summer.
Mr. Shieler, any final word?
Shieler: I just think that this is an exciting effort and we are really enjoying getting out and hearing what people have to say and the input that we've gotten from folks. And one of the things that's a little bit different this time is, typically, you go out and try to sell this; what we're doing is telling people what we've heard so far and asking for their feedback; and that's really important right now. And we appreciate what everybody's been doing.
OK. Thanks to Bob Crumb, Executive Director of the Richmond Regional Planning District Commission, and Kim Shieler, President of the Greater Richmond Chamber, talking about the Capital Region Collaborative effort. Thank you both.