Being Shovel Ready
Regardless of population or geography, our clients share the same concerns for the future – their ability to undertake necessary projects for their communities.
We hear news reports on a daily basis about the latest funding proposals before Congress. Indications point toward some variation of an infrastructure stimulus program, most likely similar to 2009’s ARRA Program. The question isn’t is help coming but how can we be ready when help arrives?
In order to be ready when stimulus dollars arrive, communities need to carefully plan right now. That is hard work. Success isn’t won at the end, it’s based on the most humble efforts at the beginning of the process.
So where do we start?
Meet with your department heads, look at your capital budget, and identify which projects must move forward and which projects have wiggle room to wait. Prepare cost estimates. Take the time to properly develop your project scope – getting input from all possible stakeholders to avoid back end delays and potentially costly change orders.
Identify all sources of potential match. Meet with non-profits like Main Streets and other economic development organizations. See where your collective priorities align and explore ways to partner for mutual benefit. Each organization brings human and financial resources, providing precious match dollars (and in-kind services). Make sure all partners (whether internal departments or external organizations or agencies) know their roles and responsibilities. Check in with them regularly.
Approach funding agencies as potential partners who have similar goals and want to accomplish the same kinds of things you do. They want to see both human and financial collaboration within the community. Document your meetings and interactions. Get letters or other evidence of support from a wide variety of local stakeholders. The more you can demonstrate solid community support, the more competitive your application will be.
Brainstorm potential funding programs for each project. Look at projects from different angles and get creative. Understand what agencies fund and (just as importantly) what they do not fund. Familiarize yourself with the scoring methodology so you can best position your project. Talk with funding agency staff early in the process so they are familiar with you and your project.
Think carefully about timelines associated with applications and programmatic requirements. Make sure you are giving yourself enough time to pull everything together for the application and construct the project once funds are awarded. Use a calendar so you can align funding applications with anticipated construction timelines, particularly if you are using more than one funding source.
Have a contingency plan. Funding agencies are likely going to receive record numbers of applications in upcoming cycles. Make sure all stakeholders know if a project is contingent on securing grant dollars to move forward. Manage expectations among all partners. Talk with funding agency staff after decisions are made to understand where your application scored and/or lost points.