Why Vision 2020? A Q&A with Mayor Joe Peel

As envisioned by Elizabeth City Mayor Joe Peel, the goal of the community-based Vision 2020 is to bring economic growth and jobs to the area by 2020. A strategic plan such as this is needed now, more than ever, said Peel, when EC|PCEDC’s Developments spoke with him this month.

What is Vision 2020?
Vision 2020 is a community planning initiative aimed at job creation by improving our community’s attractiveness to outside employers.

Why is this important for the Elizabeth City area?
Vision 2020 is critically important because over 25 percent of our population is below the poverty level and our workforce is under trained. Research shows that a “good job” is the single most important factor in improving a family’s health and education level and for reducing community crime levels. We also live in a global economy so competition for jobs has become much more intense. This strategic planning process is bringing together hundreds of citizens to identify areas we need to improve in order for us to become more competitive as a community. This community consensus will greatly enhance the sustainability of this effort over time.

What, ultimately, do you want Vision 2020 to accomplish?
Perhaps the greatest accomplishment of Vision 2020 will be for our community to realize we are one community. Either we will all be successful, or opportunity will continue to pass us by. Through consensus building, we already have identified five critical areas under economic development and four areas under community development. For these, we will set improvement goals and focus our resources.

The steering committee conducted a SWOT analysis. Were there any surprises?
For me the biggest surprises were not in the outcomes of our work but in how much agreement existed in the diverse group we brought together. The energy of the people involved, the intensity of their work and their honesty were so rewarding. They were willing to address issues, such as race, that are often times considered taboo in these settings. In addition, I was pleased to see the committee’s focus on preschool education and building family capacity. I believe all too often our human services agencies focus on services to the individual and overlook the important role families must play in supporting individual members.

What is the projected deadline for having a strategic plan draft?
Currently we have nine action teams developing goals and strategies for each area identified as a critical success area. I hope the teams will be able to complete their work by summer; however, I realize some may need more time given the complexity of their areas. The important thing to me is that they do a thorough job. I am willing to wait until fall for a job well-done.

Who comprises the Vision 2020 Steering Committee?
The Steering Committee is made up of 90 folks from different geographic areas of our community, different employment levels, different ages and with different lengths of residency. Many have remarked that it is the most diverse group ever assembled in town. We also conducted 10 focus group studies. Their ideas were fed into the work of the steering committee. The focus groups included representatives from the U.S. Coast Guard, K-12 parents, new business owners, Realtors and higher education. We wanted to be sure we had all segments of our community contributing their ideas and perspectives into the process. We now have approximately 120 citizens serving on 9 action teams. Many of these teams will conduct focus groups and will allow web-based citizen participation. The objective was to build an inclusive process.