Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Ten cities receive economic development grants

Ten cities and towns across the state have received a Hometown Economic Development Grant from the Municipal Association of South Carolina.  

Cities ranging in population from 500 to 37,000 received grants. Anderson, Belton, Estill, Johnston, Lancaster, Landrum, McClellenville, Pickens, Spartanburg and West Columbia are this year’s grant recipients. 

The grants are to support economic development projects that will make a positive impact on the quality of life in their communities. The grant program also promotes and recognizes innovation in economic development practices.

Each municipality will receive $25,000 to implement a project ranging from community master plans and retail recruitment to downtown revitalization and tourism development.

The Municipal Association board of directors created this grant program two years ago to fund projects that will produce measurable results, can be maintained over time and illustrate best practices that can be replicated in other cities. Projects funded by the first round of grants awarded last year are already showing results.

Cities and towns receiving the grant must provide matching funds. Matching amounts, determined by a city’s population, will range from 5 percent to 15 percent of the grant award. Cities can use in-kind contributions or other grant funds as their match. Fifty-three municipalities applied for the grants.

An awards committee of former and current local government and state agency professionals evaluated the grant applications. Cities and towns receiving a grant must submit reports about the progress and successes of each grant-funded project and provide financial details of how the grant funds were used.

“These grants will help our cities and towns continue to strengthen their economic development efforts to attract and retain businesses in their downtowns and neighborhoods,” said Miriam Hair, executive director of the Municipal Association.

Get details about the projects and local contact information.

Friday, October 20, 2017

A snapshot of the state's growing drug epidemic

“There wasn’t a crack problem until there was a crack supply.” That somber statement led off SLED Major Frank O’Neal’s extensive presentation at the Municipal Association’s fall forum for city managers and administrators.

O’Neal briefed the managers on the growing epidemic of drug use in South Carolina. “Price, availability and tolerance have increased prescription drug use,” he said.

Highlights of O’Neal’s presentation included:

 ·       Examples of “pizza style" delivery of heroin where a user calls a dealer and the drug is dispatched for delivery as easily as ordering a pizza.

·       It’s impossible for law enforcement and policy makers to stay on top of all the variations of news drugs flooding the market.

·       Gathering data about where the drug incidents are occurring is critical because law enforcement can’t deploy resources without knowing exactly where the problems are.

·       A $6,000 - $7,000 investment in heroin creates revenue upwards of $80,000. This is a lucrative business.

·       Ninety-two percent of heroin users first use marijuana.

·       Fifty-seven percent of people who use heroin first used opioids.

·       Eighty percent of new heroin abusers were prescription drug users.

·       Availability of heroin increasing because of a reliable low-cost supply coming from Mexico.

“The number one thing we can do to combat this epidemic is educate our kids,” O’Neal stressed at the end of his presentation. “If we are quiet, this epidemic won't go away.”

Get O’Neal’s Power Point presentation that includes more details about the increasing problem of drug use in South Carolina.

Monday, October 16, 2017

SCORE . . . Recycle, Reuse, Reformat for Maximum Impact

By Reba Hull Campbell, Deputy Executive Director (from presentations to the 2017 Connect Conference by SCPRSA and IABC-SC on November 3, 2017 and the International City/County Management Conference in San Antonio, TX on October 24, 2017)

We hear a lot these days about the need to “tell our story” of the value of our local communities to residents and businesses. This is especially true as the proliferation of fake news – or maybe it’s just “news” that’s not grounded in truth or accountability has often hijacked our ability to do just that.

But, if we’re strategic in our thinking, we can get around this onslaught of “fake news” by taking our stories directly to our residents, customers and others interested in the success of our communities. 

The same internet that allows the spread of fake news can also allow the spread of our stories. Let’s use it for the good.

We used to hear about the old adage of the “rule of seven” in advertising. Someone must read or hear something seven times before remembering or taking action. In today’s world, that seven times has likely doubled.

According to a Pew Research Center report, our brains just aren’t wired to keep up with this rapid pace of information flow caused by technology. Unfortunately this article also points to many reasons why the proliferation of “fake news” will only get worse.

So how do we cope?

Let’s take our stories (or content) and SCORE using Strategic Content Organized for Reuse to Engage.

The SCORE strategy involves reusing, recycling and reformatting content to tell your story in a deeper, more engaging way to make new topically-connected content from different parts of the organization’s storehouses of content.

SCORE involves going directly to your audience rather than depending on others to tell your story.

This means more than just posting links to new website content in a weekly email or adding a paragraph at the end of a print magazine article about where to find more detail on the website.

It’s about strategically involving the entire organization in getting the maximum impact from existing content.

Tips for a successful SCORE strategy:

1 – Prioritize SCORE as an organization-wide strategy.
This process must address both long-range goals and short-range targets of opportunity for all outreach and communication with your important audiences. It’s not just a function of a communications department.

2 - Audit all the platforms (or communications tools) you have available to your organization. Make a simple spreadsheet that lays out all the ways the organization has to communicate – anything that communicates your message and your brand to your target audiences. Think beyond just print and digital and beyond traditional communications tools.

3 - Brainstorm with people all over your organization, not just the communications staff. You will probably be surprised to find how many platforms your organization uses that you may be overlooking. Are there staff members who regularly visit with or interact by phone with your customers? What are the information entry points into the organization (receptionist, front line workers, voice mail prompts)? What other organizations does the staff interact with that help (or could help) get the message out? For members of the communications team, this process also has the added benefit of increasing the visibility of the communications staff throughout the organization as a problem-solving, boundary spanning team.

4 – Identify the content you are pushing out over these platforms. This isn’t about creating more or new content  . . . it’s about leveraging the most and best use out of what already exists. Does the organization publish an article once in a newsletter and never reference that content again? Does its online newsletter link to new website content when it’s posted with the hope people find it after that? How can the content that is similar in topic be re-used to information out in another way?

5 - Integrate the SCORE strategy into all outreach efforts. An editorial calendar can be another page of the spreadsheet that inventories all of the organization’s platforms. Use the calendar to plan how content will be used. 

For example, a newsletter article may be reformatted into a shorter, more conversational blog post with a podcast attached. The article can be posted on the website with links to other site content related to the topic. Copies of the article can be used as training materials at a conference and condensed into a Power Point format. Content from the article can be reformatted into an editorial in the local newspaper from your organization’s leadership that would then reference back to the deeper content on your website.

The SCORE strategy is intended to be an ongoing process that’s constantly changing based on the content an organization has available to it. Being flexible and on the look-out for new content all the time are key.

What you do with your content after you create it is what really matters.

That’s what the SCORE strategy is all about.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

It’s Public Power Week – Thank a lineman

It’s Public Power Week – Thank a lineman.

When power goes out, your first thought will likely go to what’s in the fridge that could go bad, or maybe how hot or cold the house will get if the power’s off for long.

During a weather emergency, it can be easy to overlook the hundreds of highly trained men and women who are ready to be out in the elements. When we are safe in our homes during a storm, the linemen are out in the field while the utility directors and staff back at home base are also using their training and expertise to get power back on.

The week of October 1 is recognized as Public Power Week. In South Carolina, 170,000 residential and business customers in 21 cities and towns receive their power from municipal power systems range from in size from 360 to 37,000 customers.

This article from this month's issue of Uptown illustrates how municipal public power systems bring value to their communities.

All 21 municipal power systems are members of an affiliate organization of the Municipal Association called the South Carolina Association of Municipal Power Systems. SCAMPS was founded more than
38 years ago to provide mutual aid to fellow cities in times of emergency in situations like we have experienced recently with Irma. SCAMPS has now grown to also include training and advocacy.

We know what these utility workers have to do in an emergency. Want to know more about what a utility director does on a regular day? Read this article from Uptown to get a sense of the variety of responsibilities a utility director has.

Linemen are also important players in the utility business. Each year, SCAMPS sponsors a lineman training event and competition for member cities. Read more about the various events in this Uptown article.

This blog post from the week after Irma tells the story of several SCAMPS member-utilities that sent crews to Georgia and Florida (scroll to the bottom of the post).