As the Brainerd City Council begins strategic and long-range planning, it is getting help from business executives.
“We are excited about the possibility you can provide for us,” said Bonnie Cumberland, council president.
Ed Egan and Dick Jordan, members of Brainerd Lakes Area Economic Development (BLAEDC) Execs, a group of retired or relocated business executives living in the area who volunteer their time, plan to work with the council members. Jordan is a former business owner and has worked in strategic planning. Egan, a Navy veteran, worked as a design engineer in semi-conductor technology for large corporations and later with a startup company. In the last two years of his career he worked in mergers and acquisitions and worked in business planning and strategic planning.
Jordan and Egan are also part of the U. S. Small Business Administration’s Service Corps of Retired Executives. There are more than 11,000 such mentors nationwide. Jordan and Egan are working with BLAEDC’s initiative to promote business and job growth.
Their goal in working with the Brainerd City Council is to act as facilitators.
“The plan is yours,” Egan told council members. “We don’t tell you what to do. ... We’ll work with you as facilitators but first of all you, your team, has to agree with what your vision is. Where do you want to be in three years? What do you want to look like?”
Once the council agrees on the vision, Egan said the facilitators help them look at what actions are needed to reach the goal and what key departments or functions the city needs to look at. After the council agrees on the actions, the plan is to prioritize those actions into what can be done in one, two and three years.
Egan said they use a SWOT analysis looking at strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. Finally, the goal is to review the plan regularly and make changes as needed.
“That sounds pretty easy but there is a lot of homework there,” Egan said.
Egan said the are often able to accomplish the list in three meetings that may last three-hours each.
“It requires the client, which in this case is you, coming in with the homework done,” Egan said. “It doesn’t have to be hard but the homework needs to be done.”
Egan said they try to get it all done in a couple of months. Cumberland said as the council has been proactive in putting together information, or the homework, already.
Cumberland said she’d like to see planning and zoning commission and economic development commission members brought into the mix after the first session.
“There is one thing to have a private business where you really have the authority, it’s another thing to have a governing body where you really have seven CEOs plus the mayor,” said council member Mary Koep. “I want to be realistic. I’ve been in the business a long time. And I’ve probably seen more plans come and go than you can shake a stick at.”
Koep said in government there are elections to consider.
“One group may plan, the next one may unplan,” Koep said.
Koep, a self-described meeting junkie, said she wasn’t trying to throw cold water on the proposal but added any plan to tell the people what the city is going to do would not only be without her approval but with her active dissent.
“Planning must be with the people not for the people,” Koep said.
Egan said the goal is to put the best plan together as possible and then be willing to change it. Cumberland said: “Nothing gets done if it’s sitting on the shelf getting dusty.”
The council approved taking advantage of the opportunity with the facilitators and expects to look at meetings in February and March.