No. 805 - IF YOU FAIL TO PLAN ...

No. 805



Over the years it has been my privilege to travel a great deal and make speeches to groups in a good number of communities, in various parts of the country. I have always enjoyed these trips, and especially meeting new people. I have found that people are basically the same regardless of where my travels have taken me, but there is a definite difference in the prosperity and optimism from one community to the next. Much of this can be attributed to location and natural resources, but leadership plays a definite role as well.
Something else I have noticed, which is certainly not a scientific approach, is that some communities are fairing better than others due to the level and quality of educational opportunities in the community. This is borne out by the fact that “college” towns usually do much better than the others.
What I am going to say next may appear to be boasting, but it is certainly not meant that way. The community of Conway, Arkansas, where I live is known as the “City of Colleges,” as we have three colleges here -- the University of Central Arkansas, Hendrix College and Central Baptist College. Our population is approaching 60,000 people, but these colleges were here long before our population exploded. In fact, some people would like to hang out a “No Vacancy” sign. When we moved to the area back in the early 1980s, the population was somewhere around 20,000, give or take a few thousand. One of the reasons for our success, in addition to the education factor, is that our economy is so diversified. Our unemployment rate is well below the national average.
In addition to economic opportunities there is something that is often called “quality of life” factors. These are the various factors that make living, working and prospering enjoyable. We have real quality of life here, and most of our citizens are grateful for it. Another factor, and this is really the purpose of this column, is what our leaders have done to plan for the future. We have all heard the saying, “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” Here is a question that you may want to think about, “Does your community have a long range plan?”
The Conway Area Chamber of Commerce facilitated a strategic planning process, to be in place by 2011, called Conway2025. The first step was public input through a short survey to identify our local priorities. More than 1,400 Conway area residents participated in the survey. This almost tripled the goal of having 500 people participate.
The survey asked residents to prioritize 43 possible focus areas. The Conway2025 steering committee identified 12 areas that stood out among the survey responses. These were Education, Transportation, Public Safety, Job Creation, Minority Affairs, Public Transportation, Arts and Culture, Drainage, Land Use and Planning, Parks and Recreation, Downtown and Small Business and Entrepreneurship. During the survey process, respondents were asked if they were willing to help write the plan. More than 300 volunteered.
The goal was to establish 12 focus areas which include: Keep Conway Moving, Keep Conway Active, Keep Conway Building, Keep Conway Working, Keep Conway Safe, Keep Conway Creative, and Keep Conway Learning.
There is much more that space does not allow me to tell you, but if you are interested visit: As I said earlier, it’s all about leadership.
(EDITOR'S NOTE: Jim Davidson is a public speaker and syndicated columnist. You may contact him at 2 Bentley Drive, Conway, AR 72034. To begin a bookcase literacy project visit You won’t go wrong helping a needy child.)