Unwarranted assumptions by developers lead to negative political outcomes – Part 1

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By P. Michael Saint,
Chairman, The Saint Consulting Group

mike-saint-2Developers and project managers hoping to win permits to build new facilities sometimes make unwarranted assumptions that lead to negative political outcomes.

In the first of two articles, here are a few:

  • Assuming they know and understand the local politics. Even experienced developers often assume they know more about the local politics in the community where they are trying to get a permit than they really know. Just because they attended a fundraiser or had dinner with the mayor does not make them political experts. Many developers have been blindsided by local political decisions after claiming more political intel than they really had.
  • Assuming that useful political intelligence can be gathered without putting people on the ground to talk with officials, neighbors and opinion leaders. Sometimes developers fear that any sign they are gathering information will be held against them. Unfortunately the real political story can seldom be gleamed just from reading old newspapers and surfing the net.
  • Assuming because they contributed to local political campaigns, those politicians will automatically support their project. Too often politicians end up voting the way they perceive their constituents want, even if this is opposed to the wishes of their own campaign contributors.
  • Assuming because they contributed to local charities, they “deserve” permission to build a new project. Opponents of new development, especially NIMBY’s, environmentalists or those motivated by an economic interest, seldom give a developer credit for past charitable contributions. In fact, they think that public donations should be a cost of doing business in a community and do not think it should qualify the developer for favored treatment in the planning process.
  • Assuming because the “facts” are on their side, they will prevail in a political argument. Actually, most political debates are won with emotion, not with cold hard facts or science.

Mike Saint is chairman and CEO, The Saint Consulting Group, email msaint@tscg.biz

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