(Saint Consulting project managers use their political campaign experience to go into neighborhoods and identify support and opposition to our clients’ development proposals. This is the first of occasional posts from the field by one of our project managers)
By Saint Consulting Staff
For the past few weeks, I have found myself in an upscale suburb of a major Midwest city, knocking on doors. I’m in a residential subdivision to discuss our client’s new grocery store we are proposing adjacent to their neighborhood, replacing a shuttered retail box and several outparcels.
Who could be against a small, high-end, family-run grocery store entering their neighborhood? Well, while most neighbors like our brand, they have concerns about the increase in traffic, delivery trucks and times, buffering, noise, and light; just to name a few.
Our goal: get to every resident, share our concept plan, listen to concerns, answer questions, and open the lines of communication. In short, we want to identify potential opponents before they organize the entire neighborhood against the project. We would rather answer tough questions one-on-one sitting at their kitchen table (or get back to them if we don’t have the answer), than have residents show up en masse to the first public hearing and give the Aldermen reason for pause.
In addition to neutralizing the opposition, I’m meeting several supporters who are pleased we will locate down the street. Together we have started a petition in support of the store, and with it we will collect names, email addresses, and phone numbers. Some residents have agreed to circulate the petition themselves. Collectively, this will produce a “go-to” list of supporters we can turn out to key hearings by the Planning and Zoning Board, and the Council public hearings.
The work is tiresome and arduous. This is not like the door-to-door I did in my former life as political campaigner. In those days, I wanted to know for whom a resident was voting for, record the answer, move on. It was all about quantity.
Land use campaigns are different. The conversations are longer – concerns are more intense and implications are more tangible, as our project is indeed in the back yard for some homeowners. I may only speak with 10 residents on a given evening, but it’s the quality of these conversations that produce value for my client.
So now I’m heading back to the streets with a number of doors to get to before night falls. I park my car and ring the first doorbell, knowing I’m giving peace of mind to anxious residents, and adding value to our client by ensuring a smooth approval process.
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