While a main goal of the CONNECT Our Future effort is to create a framework for guiding and investing in the region’s growth, CONNECT is not as much an end product as it is an ongoing process. A process in which residents, cities, counties, businesses, educators, non-profits, and other organizations work cooperatively over time, laying the foundation upon which together we will grow jobs and the economy, improve quality of life and control the cost of government in our region’s communities.
Elected and appointed officials from more than 80 jurisdictions come together to identify and undertake 800 cumulative actions to protect and enhance natural resources in the Sustainable Environment for Quality of Life (SEQL) project.
Recognizing that this 14-county region is the largest in the nation without a plan for future growth, elected officials develop the CONNECT Regional Vision.
CONNECT Regional Vision is adopted by local governments representing 70 percent of the region’s population.
Economic downturn continues to create a need for jobs and business growth, and workforce training in communities. Meanwhile, companies increasingly look at regional resources and assets when locating their businesses.
Despite the recession, our region’s rapid growth over the last decade made it the fastest growing of all U.S. regions with more than 1 million people.
Local governments, non-profits, and other organizations endorse an application seeking funding for developing a CONNECT regional framework.
The region is projected to continue to grow at a fast pace, increasing by 50 percent in the next two decades and doubling in four decades. Growth will result in greater diversity, an older population, and a significant increase in percentage of people living in poverty.
Sixty local governments or local government agencies, 29 non-profits or community foundations, 12 private-sector for-profit businesses, 7 educational institutions, and 4 state government agencies from NC and SC endorse an application seeking federal funding for developing a CONNECT regional framework.
November 21, 2011
More than 100 people representing organizations from throughout the 14-county region gather for the announcement of the receipt of a $4.9 million HUD Sustainability Grant to implement the regional vision, growing jobs and the economy, improving quality of life and controlling cost of government.
HUD provides grant funds to begin the work of the three-year CONNECT Our Future process to develop a regional growth framework.
Project organizational structure developed, work teams organized, elected officials begin championing process, initial project communications developed, elected official outreach to local government bodies begins.
July 26, 2012
Project Launch meeting is held for member local governments and organizations.
Local officials begin to make presentations to community groups promoting first set of open houses to be held throughout region October 2012-February 2013.
The CONNECT Consortium
The CONNECT Consortium oversees and guides the CONNECT Our Future Regional Growth Framework. The CONNECT Consortium is open to any interested organization, local government, or private entity willing to sign a CONNECT Consortium Agreement. If you are interested in CONNECT Consortium Membership, please contact Michelle Nance.
Senior staff, department heads, content experts, and other Consortium representatives who review and provide feedback on draft components of the Framework, identify potential policy questions, resolve content or technical conflicts to the extent possible, and ensure that Framework elements work in sync. The Program Forum makes its recommendations to the Policy Forum. Click here for a listing of current Program Forum representatives and alternates.
Elected officials, private and non-profit sector CEOs and/or Board members who examine policy implications and messaging issues, identify needed policy or regulatory changes, provide feedback to the Program Forum, and resolve policy-related conflicts. The Policy Forum is the body that endorses all final work of CONNECT Our Future, including the Regional Growth Framework, following extensive public engagement. Click here for a listing of current Policy Forum representatives and alternates.
CONNECT Core Values
A Strong, Diverse Economy
that supports a wide variety of businesses and enterprises
Increased Collaboration among Jurisdictions
on issues that transcend boundaries, including growth management, transportation, and environmental concerns, in a manner that recognizes both regional and local needs
Sustainable, Well-Managed Growth
that maintains quality of life, protects open space and environmental quality, retains the natural character of the region, and maximizes the efficiency of infrastructure investments
The Future of CONNECT
Throughout the past three years, the CONNECT Our Future Consortium has underscored the importance of a “regional role” while CONNECT implementation occurs at both the local and regional levels. Because CONNECT Our Future includes two states that have different statutes and their Councils of Government (Centralina CCOG and Catawba Regional COG) are organized differently, CONNECT’s next steps will be different in each state. Both Centralina and Catawba Regional Councils of Governments are committed to assisting each individual community access the tools and data available via the CONNECT Our Future project that are most relevant and needed by them. By strengthening our communities, we will be building a stronger region.
Centralina COG’s approach will focus on three major areas as part of the organization’s Strategic Plan:
- Continuing to grow the North Carolina component of the CONNECT Consortium as a voluntary collaboration
- Building even stronger relationships with the private and non-profit sectors, through collaboration on regional freight, community-based housing strategies, and other projects
- Building public trust by sharing CONNECT results, strategies and engaging the public in continuing efforts to achieve their community’s vision for growth
- Building stronger relationships with local, state and federal officials to move forward on local and regional priorities and growth strategies
Building Capacity at Local and Regional Levels
- Providing tools through the Regional Growth Framework, including CommunityViz® and Return on Investment modeling software and datasets, that enable communities and MPOs to better plan to strategically achieve their goals. These tools will be supported by educational forums/training and technical assistance and support from CCOG staff, so that users are able to build their capacity as well
- Capturing the increasing number of “best practices” within our region for sharing with other communities
- Helping communities align local development plans with transportation, workforce and economic growth systems
- Facilitating efforts to remove barriers for increased infill development as a means of preserving farmland and open space and supporting the vitality of town centers, as well as controlling cost of government
Building Our Regional High Priority Infrastructure
- Coordinating transportation issues including freight planning and transit readiness
- Water resource planning including water quality and quantity
- Creating stronger economic development infrastructure through the Centralina Economic Development Strategy (CEDS) specifically Career Headlight, Advanced Industries and Housing Strategies
- Maintaining CONNECT’s regional data infrastructure to provide more support and refinement for evidence based economic and community growth strategies
Catawba Regional COG’s approach will be similar to Centralina, although the emphasis for CRCOG will be on using CONNECT tools and date for the benefit of communities throughout the SC portion of the region:
Catawba Regional COG will focus on three areas related to CONNECT Core Values:
- Use CONNECT data and tools to broaden and deepen strong existing relationships with member governments and jurisdictions.
- This supports the CONNECT Core Values of: Sustainable, Well-Managed Growth, and Increased Collaboration among Jurisdictions.
Application: Using CONNECT Tools such as return on investment, CommunityViz®, and parcel mapping, CRCOG will provide critical data to member local governments as requested and needed. This information will aid our jurisdictions in making the best decisions for long term, positive impact. Impact will be derived through small area plans, comprehensive plan development, land use documents, solid waste planning, and transportation planning.
- Use CONNECT data and reports to assist in the creation of jobs and grow the economy by providing needed capital for infrastructure, equipment, and capital improvements.
- This supports the CONNECT Core Value of: A Strong, Diverse Economy and a Safe and Healthy Environment.
Application: Using CONNECT information related to brownfield and greyfield redevelopment, CRCOG will, in partnership with SC DHEC, continue to creatively deploy $5 million of EPA Revolving Loan Fund capital for cleanup of the region and state’s brownfields. Using business financing programs and a $6 million EDA Revolving Loan Fund, CRCOG will search for opportunities to provide needed capital for greyfield redevelopment and adaptive re-use throughout the region and state.
- Use CONNECT data and reports to target community development efforts and capital for healthy housing and improved neighborhoods.
- This supports the CONNECT Core Value of: A Safe and Healthy Environment and Sustainable, Well-Managed Growth.
Application: Using CONNECT generated tools and information related to housing and energy, CRCOG will seek to deploy capital for neighborhood improvement, including elimination of slum/blight conditions, along with better infrastructure solutions for low-moderate income neighborhoods.
These two approaches make sense given the differences in state government and structure between North and South Carolina, and also emphasize what CONNECT has always championed: that strong regions are made up of strong communities, that “one size does not fit all,” and that “community-based regionalism” that reflects the underlying premise that support for strengthening each of our communities is the path toward vibrant communities in a robust region.
We look forward to working with all CONNECT partners and communities as we continue to move along that path. Let’s work together to build stronger communities and a stronger region where we all—and future generations—can live, work and play.