At every Annual Conference and Exhibition, NARC celebrates membership achievements of regional excellence and cooperation across the nation. This year’s winners exemplify many qualities that a 21st-century regional council needs to be successful, including innovation, adaptability, collaboration, and hard work. Read more about our 2018 NARC Major Metro, Medium Metro, and Rural Achievement Awards Winners below:
Major Metro Winner: Southeast Michigan Council of Governments (SEMCOG)
Headquarters: Detroit, Michigan
Project: Water Resources Plan
The Southeast Michigan Council of Governments (SEMCOG) won the 2018 Major Metro Achievement Award for their Water Resources Plan. The plan focuses on three major pillars of water planning in the region: “Blue Economy,” Natural Resources, and Infrastructure. “Blue Economy” recognizes the importance of the region’s water assets and supports water placemaking efforts to enhance water recreation opportunities and support the economic development of water-dependent industries. The Natural Resources pillar highlights threats to natural resources such as invasive species and prioritizes strategies to eliminate them, as well as protect wetlands, riparian corridors, and aquatic habitats. Finally, the Infrastructure pillar addresses the region’s drinking water, wastewater, storm water, dams, and transportation infrastructure.
The plan’s breadth and depth make it a very useful part of the region’s toolkit for addressing water infrastructure needs. It outlines specific policy recommendations and actions related to protecting water resources in Southeast Michigan, many of which will be incorporated into SEMCOG’s planning efforts, like their 2045 Regional Transportation Plan. Implementation of the innovative Water Resources Plan is already underway through several projects. Looking forward, SEMCOG will work with the state to map and inventory all existing and historical wetlands, helping inform decisions made about wetland restoration and protection. Congratulations to SEMCOG on their excellent Water Resources Plan!
Medium Metro Winner: Indian Nations Council of Governments (INCOG)
Headquarters: Tulsa, Oklahoma
Project: Regional Advocacy Program
INCOG’s 2018 Medium Metro Achievement Award-winning advocacy program exemplifies regional cooperation and proves that unifying a regional message is more effective than individual efforts to pass legislation. This INCOG program is unique in its four-pronged approach to regional advocacy:
- Hosting the Coalition of Tulsa Area Governments (CTAC), an active group of county and municipal governments who advocate for issues that directly affect their member governments;
- Developing an annual federal policy issue agenda that identifies issues important to the region, which then informs the development of their Congressional Delegation Information Packet and conversations with Oklahoma’s federal representatives;
- Holding an annual reception and orientation meetings to start building relationships with newly-elected state and federal officials; and
- Working through their OneVoice Legislative Program with the Tulsa Regional Chamber to develop an annual state and federal legislative agenda embraced by public and private partners alike.
Since 2000, more than 65 CTAC bills have been signed by the governor, with countless more bills killed that harm local governments. CTAC’s slate of issues require unanimous support from all members to initiate or oppose a legislative change, creating an expectation that disagreements will be resolved in favor of the larger group and the greater good. The OneVoice agenda is also a product of more than 400 individuals – which 70 organizations, including INCOG, routinely endorse – that governors and legislators find invaluable as an indication of regional consensus on significant legislative issues. Congratulations to INCOG on their inspiring Regional Advocacy Program!
Medium Metro Winner: Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission (NIRPC)
Headquarters: Portage, Indiana
Project: Greenways + Blueways 2020 Plan
NIRPC’s Greenways + Blueways 2020 Plan, which won them the Medium Metro Achievement Award, highlights the benefits and relationships of both environmental and non-motorized transportation planning through three main topics: conservation, recreation, and transportation. The plan is the product of a significant public engagement process and cooperation among governmental, advocate, and corporate stakeholders. It merges typically distinct planning focus areas to highlight opportunities for integration. The plan identifies conservation corridors along waterways and large but fragmented patches of conservation land, and highlights over 160 miles of land-based, multi-use recreation trails across the Northwest Indiana landscape. The plan includes a chapter on merging these focus areas and a chapter on implementation that identifies performance measures and outlines eight stakeholder groups that can help put them into practice. The Greenways + Blueways Plan is an ambitious vision for tying together mutually beneficial focus areas to advance regional priorities of conservation and non-motorized transportation planning. Congratulations to NIRPC on their impressive G&B 2020 Plan!
Rural Achievement Award Winner: Heartland Regional Transportation Planning Organization (HRTPO) Headquarters: Bartow, Florida
Project: Highlands Transit Plan
HRTPO developed the Highlands Transit Plan through a collaborative planning process, engaging thousands of citizens over a 10-month study period and winning them the 2018 Rural Achievement Award. It is the first adopted transit development plan for Highlands County, Florida, which has no existing public transit system. Because of its successful campaign, HRTPO can confidently use their results to inform their strategic vision, which will guide the planning, development, and implementation of future public transportation services.
HRTPO used several approaches to gather feedback from their residents on their plan. Rather than focusing on public meetings, they placed an emphasis on education and participation where they knew people were – online, at work, civic activities, and community events. An informal “street team” of volunteers distributed surveys to their neighbors, co-workers, church members, and friends to help expand their reach, resulting in the collection of over 900 survey responses. The first public involvement phase identified the community’s public transportation and potential service options by conducting 27 stakeholder interviews, collecting 771 transportation needs survey responses, putting out a PSA on a Spanish language radio station, producing a one-hour segment on local talk radio, and hosting a booth at the Highlands County Fair for 10 days. Outreach strategies for the second phase, proposing service options for public input and prioritization, included: 100+ engagements at the Blueberry Festival, 156 service options surveys collected, two newspaper articles on plan development, and 20 attendees at a transit forum. Congratulations to HRTPO on their impressive outreach efforts that informed their Highlands Transit Plan!