Well this year’s round of enhancement grant funding applications is in the books with everything turned into the TDOT Enhancement Office on November 1. You, perhaps with help from your consultant or some of the great grant writing experts that are out there have put together everything that was asked for in the application.
The next step is when the TDOT Enhancement Office reviews all the applications that were submitted to ensure they qualify. Next in April they turn everything over to TDOT Commissioner Schroer for him to review with some of his staff. After that they are off to Governor Haslam’s Office for the actual selection. If tradition holds, the selections will be announced sometime around September 2012.
So everything has been done on the local government and community level, right? You have a great project that qualifies for the funding, that everyone really wants, and will add infinite value to the community. Time to sit back and wait since “everything” is now out of your control?
Actually, I don’t think so and I will tell you why. First off there is a very limited amount of Transportation Enhancement grant funding available. For fiscal year (FY) 2013 somewhere around $10-$12 million. This may sound like a lot until you consider that each project runs somewhere around $1 million and the TDOT Enhancement Office will get around 70 or more applications this year. By the very nature of things some very good and deserving projects that had flawless applications will just not get selected.
The question then becomes how can you help your project stand out? Remember it is Governor Haslam and his staff who select the projects that get funded, and not TDOT. Here are some suggestions for you to consider. These may work, they may not, but they can’t hurt and in fact may be very helpful for helping to build community support and involvement for the project.
- What happens when you Google your Town or City? What happens when you Google this project? What do you see? Bottom line is that if it is not on the internet it does not exist.
- In support of an answer for question #1, have you set up a Facebook page for this project? I am no social media expert and I don’t think you need to be one. Just look for ways to raise the profile of this project. Can you find a link to the grant application on the City/Town website?
- What community involvement is there? Churches, businesses, environmental groups, chambers of commerce, others? If so have them link to the projects Facebook page and have content added talking about why they support the project.
- Then there is good old newspaper and local television coverage. This is a great way to promote the projects. Plus, guess what? All of their stuff is online and you have the ability to link to it.
- What about having an outdoor community meeting on the proposed site? This way you can get the community involved, and answer any questions. It gives you an opportunity to explain to people about “Liking” the project Facebook page, and ask them to talk about the project on their social media.
- Probably you have already gotten letters of support from your local politicians as part of the application. Now might be a good time to remind them about the project and perhaps get them involved in some of the community activities that are in support of the project. Take a look at the political landscape for who the “movers and shakers” are. Would it hurt to call, write, or meet with them to let them know how awesome your project is?
The bottom line is that for any sort of project, be it Transportation Enhancement (TE), Surface Transportation Program (STP) or other funds, you as a local government and as a community should be proactively involved. Take a look at the suggestions above. Besides time, effort, and maybe some postage do they cost any money? If you think that just by quietly asking and hoping something happens will get things done, you might be in for disappointment.