The nuts of Hilton Head Island’s “Our Future” vision plan has been completed, and now the bolts of turning it into an action plan are being tightened.

After years of thinking and more than a year of planning, a community survey, two “think tank” sessions with handpicked community leaders, and two dozen public engagement workshops, plus an online data visualization platform, the Hilton Head Island Town Council adopted a vision and strategic action plan in May.

It turned over the 60-page plan, compiled by Minnesota-based Future IQ, to the Public Planning Committee, chaired by councilman David Ames, and town staff to figure out how to get done what’s now on paper.

“In order for a vision to be implemented, it has to stay as a continuous involvement of the community and town,” said Ames, who also was a member of the Vision Project Management Team. “For success, the community has to buy into it – the businesses, the nonprofits, the Community Foundation of the Lowcountry, the hospitals, the gated communities. If everyone sees the potential of the vision, and does their part to implement it, then it’s achievable.”

The foundation of Future IQ’s proposal was built on seven pillars of strategic action:

  • The relentless pursuit of excellence
  • Redefining environmental sustainability
  • Revitalizing and modernizing the economy
  • Fostering an inclusive multidimensional community
  • Building a connected and collaborative community fabric
  • Expanding to embrace an integrated regional focus
  • An innovative approach to create “right-sized” infrastructure

The project team made five changes to the strategic vision plan submitted by the company, mainly for clarification.

“Each one of the pillars is an opportunity for the public and the town staff to develop implementation strategies within those pillars,” Ames said.

As the committee looks ahead to 2040, which the company’s proposal targeted, its strategy will create implements of action every three years. “Each three-year increment is reasonable and plausible,” he said, noting that “it’s a necessity to continue having an open and transparent process going forward.”

Ames said a critical component of success will be its partnership with the Hilton Head Island-Bluffton Chamber of Commerce, which has to be “extremely close” because of its direct connection with area businesses.

At least two examples of meaningful pillar implementation have already been accomplished or are near completion: the sewer infrastructure of the entire island and the “One Island, One Community” festival held on the July 4th weekend for community inclusion.

Many more will come as the committee prioritizes the island’s needs now and in the next two decades.

“We just have to let the community know that we’re headed in a good direction,” he said.

Although the island’s visioning is starting to become tangible these days, ardent supporter David Bennett used it during his 2014 mayoral campaign as a major point.

He told the Hilton Head Sun then that the island was suffering from a lack of vision: “There had been some previous smaller attempts at developing a vision for the island, but none had been built on our large, broad number of our constituents. The product was disconnected for most of the public. So without the input from a significant portion of our population, there was a serious disconnect and very little buying into it.”

Denise K. Spencer, CEO and president of the Community Foundation of the Lowcountry, has been a vision advocate early on.

“If we want things to move forward – if we want change – if we want improvement, more than a limited few need to roll up their sleeves and take on a role,” she wrote in a recent column in the Hilton Head Sun. “We can’t sit on the sidelines, complaining …”

The town paid Future IQ $165,000 for its research and study, and Ames said it was money well spent. Besides its recommendations on how to improve the local quality of life in the years ahead, it also objectively pointed out the island’s strengths and flaws.

“Future IQ performed extraordinarily well,” Ames said. “If they don’t show you both sides of the equation, you’re not getting your money’s worth.”

Ames told the Sun two weeks ago while on vacation that his view of the island’s future before the vision project began was “unsure.”

Not anymore.

Lowcountry resident Dean Rowland is a veteran senior editor and freelance writer.