Demonstrating Support for Linear Land Use Projects

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By Owen Eagan, The Saint Consulting Group

Because linear land use projects offer unique benefits, such as reducing our dependence on foreign oil and reducing our energy costs, it can be a challenge to identify local stakeholders in individual communities to support your project. That is, there are very few direct beneficiaries – such as those who would benefit from direct employment – and indirect beneficiaries – such as those who would benefit from the tax revenue generated by the project.

Therefore, hotspotting to address latent support should always be an integral part of any linear land use project. In addition, though stakeholders may be virtually non-existent from the project itself there are always stakeholders from the construction phase of the project. In some cases, the construction phase can mean millions of dollars to stakeholders. For example, the Honolulu rail transit project, which our company helped permit, is estimated to cost roughly $5.5 billion. As a result, the carpenters and building trades union were some the of the project’s most active supporters.

In cases where the construction phase is not as significant, economic impact studies can be conducted to estimate so-called multiplier effects. Projects such as pipelines for energy companies can have economic impacts upwards of a million dollars when the ripple effects to local businesses are considered. And, in some instances, companies may need to identify a local cause or organization to support through corporate social responsibility programs. Ideally, this charitable giving should enhance the company’s value chain if possible, such as through strategic partnerships with local colleges to educate and train workers for specialized fields. If that’s not an option, funding can always be directed to the local soccer moms and dads for lights on the local soccer field.

Though any and all of these strategies can be employed, they should be based on understanding where your support lies among public officials and where you need to target your efforts. Every public official has their base of supporters and key constituencies by whom they are most influenced. So, first you need to know where you simply need to provide political cover for public officials and where you need to apply pressure. Then, once you know where you need to apply pressure, you can make strategic decisions to ensure that it’s applied the right way.

Owen Eagan is a Senior Consultant for Saint Consulting, an international management consulting firm specializing in land use politics, email

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