Providing resources for communities and entrepreneurs to create and retain jobs in Antrim, Charlevoix, Cheboygan & Emmet Counties.

Get Ready, Get Set, Get a Strategic Plan

By Amanda Baker, Downtown Development Coordinator

Northern Lakes Economic Alliance (NLEA) and Networks Northwest invited area Downtown Development Authority (DDA) representatives to explore the hows and whys behind strategic plans at their December DDA Forum.

There are a million actions a community can take and anyone you ask will give you a different opinion on which ideas are most important. It can be easy to get lost down the rabbit hole of options. A great way to keep your community on track is to establish a strategic plan by which an organization defines its strategy through allocating resources and setting priorities toward a common goal.

An organized strategic plan allows credibility for your organization by vetting ideas through public input and posting them in an accessible manner to interested parties. Strategic plans also support institutional memory and succession planning along with opening up various grant funding opportunities.

The strategic planning process can be broken down into these basic steps:

  1. Begin by gathering information to determine what you are working with and analyze that information to determine where you need to go.


  1. Once you’ve determined where you are, you can begin visioning and goal setting.
  2. Utilize a steering committee of board members, municipal representatives, and community stakeholders to thoroughly vet the ideas and create buy in from the public.


  1. Hold public meetings and offer surveys to come up with projects the community supports.

These goals can then be divided by length of time for implementation. It is important to show progress with smaller projects that are often more attainable while looking down the road for the bigger fish.

After sorting your information and determining your goals, a final strategic plan can be drafted. Each strategic plan is different based on the organizations goals. Final products can be anywhere from one brief page to an entire manifesto of laid out steps.

Once you’ve adopted your strategic plan the most important step comes in to play- implementation, monitoring, and evaluation. Don’t let your efforts go to waste sitting on a shelf with the old meeting minutes and paperwork. Keep an eye on your plan, and evaluate it each year to determine how well it fits and how well you follow it. Refer to it often and keep it in the forefront of your decision making processes.

If you are interested in further exploring a strategic plan for your community or organization contact Northern Lakes Economic Alliance at

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