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East Jordan Dives into Community Assessment from the inside out

By Amanda Baker, Downtown Development Coordinator

Taking the time to assess your community can narrow down the focus of what projects are important and streamline future planning.

In early 2017, the Downtown Development Authority (DDA) partnered with the East Jordan Chamber of Commerce to put together a community marketing team. Members came forward from various community organizations including the City of East Jordan, East Jordan Area Schools, Friends of the Jordan, Raven Hill Discovery Center, and Jordan River Arts Council with a goal of attracting people to East Jordan, not only for a visit, but to create a life here.

In determining the best ways to pull a plan together, the marketing team determined they needed to start by analyzing what they had to offer and what they were trying to accomplish. There are many ways a community can embark on this process, and East Jordan is taking a multi-faceted approach.

They began their process with a basic intercept survey handed out at various events over the summer and sent out digitally—integrating a Survey Monkey into their monthly newsletters. The surveys brought in responses from almost 175 people, mostly East Jordan residents. The team then took a deeper look at some of the responses that showed up numerous times. A group of about 20 individuals were asked to focus on ten observations of the town and what could be done to improve them. Creating a Strengths/Weaknesses/Opportunity/Threats (SWOT) analysis will help organize the focus areas and lead the way to identifying projects for a strategic plan.

While this in house analysis is on-going, the marketing team received a grant from the Charlevoix County Community Foundation to bring in Michigan State University Extension (MSUE) to conduct a First Impressions in Tourism (FIT) assessment. The FIT program was created by Andy Northrop, Sustainable Tourism and Community Development, as a way to help communities learn about their strengths and weaknesses through the eyes of first time visitors.

According to Northrop and the program pamphlet, “FIT is a comprehensive community assessment conducted by unannounced visitors in a host community positioned to lead development based on the program results. FIT involves developing community leadership, assessing the host community, sharing the results in a community forum open to all, and providing suggestions to guide community action.”

By taking the time to assess the community both inside and out, the community marketing team will be able to develop a solid action plan that highlights the best that East Jordan has to offer, and to address problem areas to strengthen the community.

If you are interested in taking steps to assess your community or organization contact Northern Lakes Economic Alliance at info@northernlakes.net.

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