Loudon County Economic Development Agency wants to hear from residents about the present and future of the community.
LCEDA is now distributing a survey to residents to learn more about their favorite and least favorite parts of the county.
“We’re asking the public to take a short amount of time to fill out the survey and tell us what they think,” Jack Qualls, executive director, said.
The two multiple-choice surveys — one for residents and one for business owners — request basic location information such as zip code as well as demographic data about education and income. Questions ask respondents to rank in order of importance factors such as environment, leisure, restaurants and others that contribute to quality of life.
The survey takes about 10 minutes. Typical questions include, “What specific places (destinations, businesses, etc.) within Loudon County would you recommend to a person visiting the community for the first time?”
Some questions are quite specific, such as, “What is one place in Loudon County you couldn’t live without?”
The survey is available by using a smartphone to scan the QR codes at https://www.loudoncountyeda.org. LCEDA will also be holding community meetings, focus groups, stakeholder meetings and live polling to collect data.
Information collected will be combined with statistical data to create a strategic plan called Thrive Loudon, a reference to the goal of the plan, which is to make sure the county thrives, Qualls said.
EDA will be assisted by consultants Arnett Muldrow and Orion Planning and Design. The project is financed through a grant, Qualls said.
Recommendations will be shared with governing bodies to help them make strategic decisions about important issues such as growth and business development, he said.
Part of the strategic assessment will involve market definition, which will look outside the county and include regional data.
During qualitative discussion with stakeholders, employers, business owners and the development community, “trade areas” that are relevant to the county and communities will be identified.
A complete demographic profile of the county will be developed, including population and income metrics, current year estimates, trend analysis and projections for future growth.
A business development strategy will then be based off needs determined through the data. Strategies would rely on local resources and community needs and could include recruitment, retention, workforce training and grant and loan assistance programs.
An implementation strategy will be based on a long-term, broad vision with actionable and visible implementation tasks, Qualls said.
“The recommendations will be organized into a ‘strategy board’ with short-, medium- and long-range actions that support the ultimate vision,” he said.
The strategic plan will then be presented to the EDA during a one-day workshop where a steering committee would draft a final vision statement. The draft plan would be shared in a public meeting. Stakeholders previously consulted would review the plan.
Qualls emphasized the importance of the county working from a strategic plan for growth and development. The plan the county is currently using is more than 20 years old, he said.