News Flash

Wright County News

Posted on: February 10, 2020

County Preparing Comprehensive Strategic Planning Update

One of the more significant projects Wright County is going to embark on in 2020 is going to be tackling strategic planning for the county’s future – assessing the wants and needs of county residents in determining the county’s vision for the future, ranging from land uses to customer service needs to taxation to the quality of life that can be expected.

Wright County Commissioner Darek Vetsch said that the county will be taking on an ambitious approach to coming up with a set a goals and expectations for the future and how to best achieve those goals. Considering what the county has been working with in the way of strategic planning – an antiquated document that didn’t take into account the speed with which change is happening – a new direction is needed.

“We have done strategic planning in the past, but what we have now is kind of a messy document,” Vetsch said. “It was pretty outdated to begin with and was pretty messy and disjointed for what we want to do moving forward. In my tenure, we never used our mission statement or applied it to many decisions we’ve made. This time around, we’re looking for our strategic planning to be much more comprehensive and better reflect the realities of 2020 and into the future.”

The new planning phase is expected to involve several goal areas, including how to best implement what are deemed to be priorities. Wright County Administrator Lee Kelly said that determining the goals will have a ripple effect because it sets the tone as to how the stated goals can be realistically achieved.

“A well thought out strategic plan tells our staff what our direction is and it helps determine our budget priorities – to what degree are we going to emphasize some of these areas,” Kelly said. “It’s a long process, but the key for any strategic planning to be successful is to get everyone on the same page so we’re all working to achieve the same goals.”

Some counties have made attracting business and industry to their area as a top priority and those goals typically involved a considerable investment. Scott County had a strategic plan to bring big businesses to its area and were able to get Amazon and Shutterfly to locate facilities there. But, the county had to invest millions of dollars in a fiberoptic network required to accommodate businesses of that size. In addition, both corporations were given 15-year tax abatements, which cuts into the investment that brought them to Scott County in the first place.

Vetsch added that Carver County has made quality of life a primary focus of its strategic planning. The county has made many improvements to that end, but those improvements come with a cost.

“One of the biggest things with our strategy that I want to talk to our cities and townships about is what do we want to be?” Vetsch said. “Do we want to be like Carver County? There’s a cost that comes with that. Carver County has a lot of amenities. They have a very high quality of life. But, they also have some of the highest taxes in the state. When you do planning like this, you have to set realistic goals and operate toward reaching those objectives. Everyone wants a great quality of life, but that comes with a price tag.”

Vetsch said it is critical that any county plan takes into account the wishes and needs of cities and townships. In the case of Wright County, the goals of those living along the I-94 corridor may well be very different than those in rural farm-heavy townships.

No two cities or townships are going to have the exact same goals, so the key to formulating an effective long-term strategic plan is to have the cities and townships at the table. While the county, cities and townships may have differing views on what are the top priorities, having a solid knowledge base of where each believes the future is heading is critical to having as comprehensive a strategic plan as possible.

“If we want to make this work, you have to get everyone working together – the county board, administration, the department heads, the cities and the townships.” Wright County Commissioner Mark Daleiden said. “If we’re all going in different directions, we’re just spinning our wheels. The goal is get everyone aligned so we know what the goals are for all the players involved. They may not be the same, but as long as we’re aware of them, we can work together on those goals that we share.”

The next step will be to communicate to cities and townships to understand how their individual vision of the future works meshes with the county’s objectives. In 20 years, for example, Monticello Township is likely to experience considerable growth, whereas a place like Cokato Township will likely remain largely rural and unchanged in that same time frame. A strategic plan for Wright County needs to be mindful of those inherent discrepancies that are unique to Wright County residents.

Vetsch believes the end result of this round of strategic planning is going to be to creating a blueprint for what Wright County wants for its future, determining how best to achieve those goals and what steps will be required to accomplish it. For it to be effective, it will need as many stakeholders as possible as part of that discussion. 

“I want to look at this process as reviewing our mission statement and making sure as we’re laying out our strategy if that mission statement still holds true and are those values still the same?” Vetsch said. “We want to have the input from cities and townships in developing how we proceed. It’s not just the county board’s mission, it’s the citizens of the county’s vision as to what do we want our quality of life to look like in Wright County?”

The next step in the process will come March 9-12 when the county has strategic planning workshops scheduled that included invitations to all cities and townships as well as county department heads to take part and start refining what the vision of the county’s future will be for its residents.

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