Dedicated to Land Development

April 2004 » Feature Articles
The Land Development Conference and Exposition is only weeks away. Occurring May 5-7 in Baltimore, it will be the first major conference and exhibition dedicated to the land development industry.

The conference program offers ample opportunity for the more than 200 anticipated attendees to learn and discuss trends, issues, and advancements in the land development industry, preparing them to tackle the new frontiers they'll face. More than 40 speakers will present on topics in four tracks—Executive Management, Collaboration and Project Management, Land Use Planning, and Sustainable Development. Offering something for everyone, the sessions will occur concurrently so attendees can optimize their conference experience. In addition, attendees can earn up to 15 PDHs, which is equivalent to 1.5 CEUs, by attending the conference program.

The exhibit hall, open on May 5-6, also offers opportunities for networking. With more than 20 exhibitors, many products and services will be on display. Be sure to stop by the booth of the Land Development Conference and Expo's platinum-level sponsor Eagle Point Software Corp., a Dubuque, Iowabased land development technologies developer and consultant, which has helped make this conference possible.

For evening entertainment, the conference offers a reception in the exhibit hall on May 5 and a Gala Reception and Banquet on May 6. Keynoting the banquet will be Richard Karlgaard, publisher of Forbes magazine. He will present "Life 2.0: Why (and which) American cities of 50,000 to 500,000 will enjoy fast-growing economies over the next decade" from 8 to 9 p.m. See page 31 for an expanded look at Karlgaard's address.

PLENARY SESSION

Approaching success with no holds barred
Have you ever had to deal with a number of stakeholders, each with his or her own important perspective on a topic, and you needed to reach a consensus in order to move forward? Paul Morris, the immediate past president and Fellow of the American Society of Landscape Architects, will lead a multi-disciplined panel that will address why it is vitally important to achieve consensus building during project planning and how to reach that goal.

To demonstrate how to achieve concurrence, Morris and the panel will use the example of the West Hyattsville Transit-Oriented Development Strategy. The project has required the focus of county, state, and federal resources to stimulate appropriate transit-oriented development at the West Hyattsville Metro Station in West Hyattsville, Md. Specifically, the planning effort has involved several public stakeholders, including the City of Hyattsville, the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, the Maryland Department of Transportation and Planning, the Governor's Office of Smart Growth, and county agencies.

The panel also will discuss the difficulties faced when cities are seen as the "place to be," yet are not ready in terms of infrastructure, housing, and overall quality of life to meet this challenge. How do such cities deal with the needs of their burgeoning populations?

Further complicating the question, planners must answer those needs with declining resources. Does the ultimate success hinge upon a reinvention in the basic way they do business? How do developers learn to meet the needs of the public and the public learn to meet the needs of development? Morris will lead discussions on how incisively planners can educate the public and private sectors to forge lasting partnerships to achieve the ultimate success of livable communities within cities. Fort McHenry,constructed between 1794 and 1806 out of masonry and later enlarged and strengthened,defended Baltimore harbor during the War of 1812. It is the birthplace of the American national anthem.The fort remained a military post until 1912.

Fort McHenry, constructed between 1794 and 1806 out of masonry and later enlarged and strengthened, defended Baltimore harbor during the War of 1812. It is the birthplace of the American national anthem. The fort remained a military post until 1912.

GENERAL SESSION

Problem solving in the land development industry
During the past 25 years, an interesting, but also concerning, phenomenon has occurred in the land development industry. Many firms have bought into the idea that staying current with the latest technology will streamline the land development project process. Yet this isn't always the case. In fact, as firms become too reliant on technology to solve all of their problems, more problems crop up. The solution is to find the root causes of problems before buying into solutions.

Understandably, the reason firm owners have upheld technology as a problem solver is because technology companies sold the false belief that enough dollars spent on their products would solve all problems. Most organizations believed this myth and spent the dollars to stay current with the latest and greatest versions of these products. Since then, these tools have taken an increasingly instrumental role in the project process. For example, geographic information systems (GIS) are used to help make planning decisions. Robotics and global positioning systems (GPS) have been introduced into the data acquisition stage, and CADD automates the design process. Construction equipment is guided by use of automatic machine control coupled with GPS, and then it's back to GIS for tracking and planning maintenance activities. Yet, with all of these automation tools in place, a constant set of problems related to time, cost, quality, and output continues to negatively impact organizations involved in the land development industry.

In addition, although the tools used during each phase have changed significantly, the basic process has followed the same, simple approach: 1) planning, 2) conducting data acquisition (survey) in the field, 3) designing for the future, 4) constructing the project, and 5) maintaining the finished development over time. Before the introduction of the personal computer in 1983, the workflow processes of most organizations were in sync with the tools used. With this history in mind, it is time to ask a key question: Has the increased-technology approach really eliminated or even improved the four basic issues of time, cost, quality, and output? The argument can be made that it yields marginal results, at best, and in many cases actually increases problems.

Vision, business management practices, and workflow processes are viewed as three sides of a triangle that support a successful organization. Without any one of these sides, the triangle will collapse. The problems related to time, cost, quality, and output are just the manifestation of the root cause, which is found in one or more sides of this triangle. Too many organizations jump to spending money on technology to improve their workflow process when their real problems are rooted in their vision or business management practices. This faux solution often leads to frustration, recurring issues, and in the many cases, more problems. If staying current with the latest technology is not the answer, then what is?

First, a bigger-picture view must be considered. A more in-depth investigation helps identify underlying root causes of problems, which can be the most basic, causal factor. Correcting root causes prevents recurrence of the undesirable event. The process for uncovering the real problems and their underlying root causes requires a thorough, non-judgmental, and unbiased investigation, which should start with an organization's broadest foundation—its vision.

An organization's vision is made up of the following five key components: goals, business strategies, organizational structure, culture, and performance and behavior expectations. For each of these components, an investigation should center on answering the following five questions. 1) Is the component specifically defined, and is the definition supportive of the next component? 2) Is there general awareness of the component throughout the organization? 3) Is there general agreement with the component throughout the organization? 4) Is the component practiced throughout the organization? 5) Is the component measured, and are corrective action plans implemented regularly? The second step of investigation should center on business management practices. Consider the major practices of accounting, human resources, and marketing/business development, along with each of their subpractices. For each of the sub-practices, the investigation should determine whether or not there is a defined process that is both effective and efficient. Again, are all employees that are involved in the practice aware of the process, in agreement with it, and practicing it? Ultimately, is the process measured and are corrective action plans implemented regularly?

Workflow processes should be evaluated in the third step of investigation. As discussed earlier, every project follows the same basic process of planning, data acquisition, design, construction, and maintenance. As with business management practices, is there a standardized process, and are all employees involved aware of and in agreement with the process, as well as practicing it? Finally, is the process measured and are corrective action plans implemented regularly?

Answers to all these questions will clearly identify the root causes to real problems. Then, solutions that are clearly focused on the root causes of problems can be planned, designed, and developed. Upon implementation, the root causes will be attacked, and as a result, the real problems are likely to be improved, if not eliminated completely.

KEYNOTE ADDRESS

Anticipating growth for American cities
The stock market and economic busts of the early 2000s have left thousands of businesses based in high-cost, large cities and suburbs—along with millions of employees and their families—struggling to make ends meet. According to Karlgaard, the beneficiary of this bad news will be America's small- and medium- sized cities, those in a population range of 50,000 to 500,000. Such cities may turn out to be the star economic performers during the next decade.

In April 2002, Karlgaard tackled this topic in his monthly column in Forbes, "Digital Rules." The piece, titled "Boonyack Comeback," presented his hypothesis that small, U.S. cities could economically outperform larger cities over the next decade. Although Karlgaard offered no statistical evidence to back up this hypothesis, he did spend the summer of 2002 flying his four-seat airplane around the United States, investigating the post-boom, post-Sept. 11 economy. He stopped at places such as Belgrade, Mont., to visit with such business owners as those at Pioneer Entrepreneurs, a company that aims to help communities be more successful by helping entrepreneurs be more successful. During his travels, he further developed his thesis and learned why (and which) small- and medium-sized cities will own the future. Karlgaard will present why economic and technology trends favor a "Boonyack Comeback." For example, the large difference in land and housing costs favors smaller cities. A homeowner can get twice the house for the same price.

Karlgaard also will provide nine characteristics of thriving communities, as well as how large employers can take advantage of this trend. This keynote address is a can't-miss event for land development professionals. According to Karlgaard, "The U.S. population is expected to add 100 million to 150 million people during the next 50 years. While time has a way of making economic forecasts look foolish, I am nevertheless confident in saying land development will be a booming business a half century from now."

CONFERENCE VENUE

Baltimore Inner Harbor
The Land Development sessions, exhibit hall, and Gala Banquet all will be held at the Wyndham Baltimore-Inner Harbor. Located only Baltimore's Inner Harbor boasts museums, restaurants, and hundreds of shops. blocks from the harbor, the hotel was built for business and pleasure.

Baltimore is one of America's oldest seaports; it has been welcoming people, ships, and goods from all over the world since the 1600s. Officially founded in 1729, the city has experienced steady growth. Yet Baltimore also experienced a decline in its downtown growth in the mid-1900s, when people and businesses moved to the suburbs. Abandoned warehouses, overcrowded neighborhoods, and deteriorating properties littered its harbor front.

In mid-1960s, Baltimore embarked on a 30-year, $260 million effort to redevelop its Inner Harbor, which is now the crown jewel of the city. A world-class example of wellplanned redevelopment that benefited residents and businesses alike, it offers a scenic waterfront area with dozens of retail stores, restaurants, and other attractions.

Within walking distance are several quaint, historical neighborhoods, such as Little Italy, a pasta lover's paradise; and Fells Point, the oldest section of Baltimore, which still has cobblestone streets. Besides its many historical sites to view, the city offers several attractions, such as Camden Yards, the National Aquarium, and the Maryland Science Center.

To register for this exciting, Baltimore-based event go online www.LandDevelopment2004.com.


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