STRATEGIC PLANNING IN THE FASTEST GROWING CITY IN AMERICA

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Abstract:

The City of Henderson is located in the arid climate of southern Nevada's Las Vegas Valley. For the last several years, the City of Henderson has earned the distinction as “the fastest growing city with a population over 100,000.” Our population has increased from 48,660 in 1987 to 204,000 as of July 2001 with the majority of this extreme growth occurring in the last eight years.

This phenomenal growth has had major impacts on the City's Department of Utility Services, requiring careful financial, technical, and operational planning to keep up with the growth. Currently, we employ over 180 full-time employees who provide water, sewer, and reclaimed water service within a 91 square mile service area and manage a ten-year, 200 million capital improvement plan.

Because we have grown from a relatively small utility to a large utility in a short period of time, we have taken a creative and proactive approach to our planning. Our top concern is our ability to maintain our success as a well-managed, respected utility in the years to come. Although we had never performed any “formal” strategic planning, it was clear that a well-crafted strategic plan would play a major role in future success.

In the spring of 1999, we contracted with the AWWA QualServe program to conduct an extensive self-assessment, followed by a comprehensive peer review. The intent of utilizing these programs was to get a “snapshot” assessment of how we were performing. The results of the QualServe program determined that the City of Henderson Utility was healthy and had weathered the extreme growth well, but that a formal strategic plan and the development of a continuous improvement program are keys to our continued success. As a municipal utility, we acknowledged that there was room for improvement, at which time we entered into “The Strategic Planning Zone.”

The QualServe Peer Review Team believed it would be difficult for us to complete our plan without hiring a facilitator, due to our lack of strategic planning experience and limited staff resources. In the spring of 2000, we contracted with the business-consulting arm of the Black and Veatch Corporation to provide facilitation services. Shortly thereafter, we successfully developed our first detailed strategic plan, consisting of a vision and mission statement and a detailed list of strategic objectives, including the comprehensive action plan necessary to successfully complete each of the strategic objectives. Subsequent assignments were given out to employee teams to help achieve the objectives within the strategic plan.

Within several months we faced many challenges in completing the objectives outlined in the plan. These challenges included a lack of staff resources, due to the ongoing demands of growth and the lack of a clear implementation plan. During this same time frame, the City of Henderson began to develop a comprehensive citywide strategic plan through the collaboration of elected officials and all City Departments, including Utility Services.

The Department of Utility Services was not only challenged with the effort required to assess itself and develop and implement its strategic plan, but also required adjusting the direction of the plan to align ourselves with the City's vision. We met this challenge by considering how we support the City's strategies and incorporating goals into our own plan that more accurately present our contribution in achieving the long-term vision for our City.

In conclusion, Strategic Planning is an ongoing effort that has enabled the Department of Utility Services to effectively achieve our vision in a climate of continued growth.

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.2175/193864702785301637

Publication date: January 1, 2002

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  • Proceedings of the Water Environment Federation is an archive of papers published in the proceedings of the annual Water Environment Federation® Technical Exhibition and Conference (WEFTEC® ) and specialty conferences held since the year 2000. These proceedings are not peer reviewed.

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