By County Manager Chris Coudriet
June 20, 2011. There is no shortage of significant days throughout the history of our community, but that date more than 12 years ago marked a truly important moment for our county’s future.
On June 20, 2011, the New Hanover County Board of Commissioners reviewed and formally adopted the county’s first-ever strategic plan. At the time, we didn’t have an Office of Strategy. The plan was built by county staff in collaboration with an outside organization that specializes in helping governments develop such roadmaps for the future.
The goal was a simple concept – create a framework that would guide the long-term vision for New Hanover County and help your county government operate in the best interests of the community.
More than a decade removed from that moment, it’s easy to see how incredibly important that decision was.
To be clear, our organization has always tried to serve with the best interest of you, our citizens, in mind. Decisions have been made to provide needed services and enhance the quality of life for those who live and visit our community. The difference between now and the time before a strategic plan is how we measure what is working.
The goal in implementing the strategic plan was to focus initiatives and projects across all county departments, supported by data-driven information and tangible metrics to see what type of impact they were having. Our most recent strategic plan report-out shows that we set attainable targets and reached several significant benchmarks in our service.
All these years later, it’s a plan that has guided us to being the model of good governance. And, it will continue guiding us as we move forward.
On July 17, 2023, Commissioners adopted the third iteration of the county’s strategic plan, with this one set to carry us through Fiscal Year 2027-28.
While the process for constructing this latest plan is different from the one in 2011, the goal remains the same. The work done by your county government should reflect the needs of the community we serve and strengthen or enhance the quality of life for those who call this place home.
Throughout the planning process, our Office of Strategy worked with stakeholders from across the county, including our Board of Commissioners, community partners, and internal staff and utilized results from the Community Survey to gather intel and build a complete picture of the needs to focus on.
Ultimately, it came down to three focus areas – Workforce & Economic Development, Community Safety & Well-being, and Sustainable Land Use & Environmental Stewardship.
Creating sustainable pathways that allow our citizens to be career ready for the opportunities available in our community will be a focal point of this plan. As part of Workforce & Economic Development, it is our mission to continue fostering a business environment that encourages growth, while we prepare our citizens to be a part of the workforce with equitable connections to education and highly-skilled employment.
If the past few years have taught us anything, it’s that Community Safety & Well-being must remain a priority. We’ve already made and will continue to make strides in guaranteeing access to resources for physical and mental health while creating an environment that mitigates health and safety risks and works to make sure residents feel supported. From viruses to substance use disorder, from healthy habits to mental illness, the work to provide these resources is a must if we want to see individuals and families thrive.
And finally, there is the focus of Sustainable Land Use & Environmental Stewardship. Our county is seeing continued growth, both in commercial and residential projects. The key is making sure that growth is in alignment with safeguards and protections for natural areas and cultural amenities that make our community a destination. It’s about finding the perfect balance between development and preservation. This focus area makes sure we don’t lose sight of that as growth and development are necessary to support a thriving community, like our vision statement calls for.
If you haven’t already, I invite you to review the Strategic Plan for Fiscal Years 2024-2028, along with all the information about how this plan came to fruition. Check out the targets we’ve set to measure success. Learn more about how we will focus our efforts to better serve you in the years ahead.
We’ve certainly come a long way from June 20, 2011. And we look forward to seeing what lies ahead over the next five years as we progress and grow together.