Situation: Emmetsburg Community Development Corporation (ECDC), the economic development agency working to improve the quality of life for residents of the City of Emmetsburg (Iowa), retained Hanser & Associates in 2009 to produce a feasibility study and actionable plan regarding the outdated — but unique and beloved — Emmetsburg Country Club facility.  Constructed in 1947, it is located at the waterfront on 1,000-acre Five Islands Lake and adjacent to the golf course in Kearny State Park, the only golf course located on land in an Iowa State Park.

Strategy & tactics: Hanser & Associates, with experience gained through similar public input projects, began by conducting executive interviews with 23 community leaders to identify and summarize the major issues/questions and establish leaders’ precise goals. We then got answers through a quantitative telephone survey of 388 residents to determine what they wanted and would support with their dollars, followed by a focus group to analyze/interpret the findings (qualitative). Details included the size of the new facility, frequency of use and residents willingness to support it with their gifts and tax dollars.

With the solid research as a basis, our partner RDG Planning & Design assisted with architectural planning, which included preliminary architectural design (square footage, etc.) and cost estimates for a new facility to fulfill what the residents said they want: a 14,000-square-foot community center. Financial feasibility projected positive net revenues.

Results: With broad community support documented, we recommended action by ECDC and presented the feasibility study’s results at a public meeting. Action is under consideration by Emmetsburg leaders.