Opt-In is a year-long effort to fill in research gaps, identify opportunities and test alternative strategies to inform decision-making about economic development, transportation planning and the environment. The goal for the program is to deliver a Regional Vision, Comprehensive Plans for Cherokee and Graham Counties and a Comprehensive Transportation Plan for Graham County. While it may sound vague, the Regional Vision will be useful on different levels for these counties. Increasingly, opportunities and challenges come at local communities from global, national, state and regional levels. So it’s important for local decision-makers — whether they’re public, private-sector or non-profit decision-makers — to understand how local values and capacities align with larger trends and what strategies seem most likely to maximize opportunities and overcome challenges. The Regional Vision that emerges from this process will be the result of a collaboration with citizens and leaders to clarify goals and identify successful strategies for the future.
One thing that they stress with this program is that it is a voluntary, information process only. No laws will be enacted or enforced as a direct result of Opt-In. That’s why “OPT-IN,” a shortened version of “Opportunity Initiative,” was picked for the name. Local governments can choose how they want to use the information. They can direct the Southwestern Commission to incorporate elements of the Vision into regional infrastructure planning. They can leverage the research for their own purposes. Or they can choose not to do anything. But because the process is designed to plug in the ideas and concerns of citizens and leaders through each phase, it’s likely to produce decision-making tools that enjoy broad support.
We hope this program is successful in its effort to produce comprehensive plans that will be helpful for communities in Graham & Cherokee Counties as they make decisions for their residents. If you would like to learn more about Opt-In, check out their website here.