The community of Hillsboro, Oregon needed a strategic vision to direct its rapid growth. With the help of Steven Ames planning, they got just that while simultaneously creating a unique model that broke new ground in the way it engaged the community.
A one-time agricultural community on the western edge of the Portland metropolitan area, Hillsboro, Oregon had expanded into a full-service city by the 1990s. It was experiencing the kind of rapid growth that called for a strategic vision. At the same time, Hillsboro was still a "small-town" and as such, had a community character that residents recognized as an asset to be protected and enhanced. Since the 1970s, the city had more than doubled in size through annexation, the attracting of new high-technology companies, and major commercial and housing developments. While most of this growth occurred in a well-planned, orderly fashion, the challenge lied in integrating Hillsboro's spectacular growth into a cohesive community. By 1997, the "old" Hillsboro was part of a much larger city, one that was struggling with is identity.
During the early project phases in 1997, the city conducted a scientific poll of the community and held focus groups for community leaders to develope a comprehensive community profile. This information helped establish a common knowledge base that would inform the entire process. With the hiring of the consultant team Steven Ames Planning, a formal design was developed, detailing how the project would be organized, how it would involve the community, and what types of issues would be discussed.
Based on the city's earlier research, six major public discussion "focus areas" were identified: 1) Strengthen and sustain community; 2) Preserve the environment; 3) Enhance neighborhoods and districts; 4) Expand educational and cultural horizons; 5) Promote health and safety; 6) Create economic opportunity
The broad-ranging nature of these focus areas called for a diverse group of community stakeholders from the public, private, civic, and nonprofit sectors to be involved, and in the fall of 1998, Hillsboro 2020 launched its most ambitious phase, creating a vision.
The public involvement effort included traditional and non-traditional engagement activities such as community forums, workshops, and special interest focus groups. The public outreach campaign also included a newsletter named The Horizon, a professionally produced video, and a volunteer speakers' bureau, as well as a webpage, phone-in hotline, and direct mailings.
Hillsboro was committed to making the process bilingual to engage the city's fast-growing Hispanic population. While bilingual publications increased costs, the new links forged with the Hispanic community were priceless and provided an important perspective that may otherwise have gone unincorporated.
Working with all of this input was the Hillsboro 2020 Vision Task Force, a 27-member citizen advisory group appointed by the city council and structured to reflect the broad diversity of the community. The task force was charged with developing the project's two major products: a broad vision statement of the community in 2020, and an action plan for getting there.
By early 1999, Hillsboro had a comprehensive community vision. The vision statement included an overarching "umbrella" vision and six component visions, one for each focus area.
Riding on this momentum, the task at hand was then to develop a series of actions designed to achieve the vision over the following 20 years. The city decided to further expand its public participation focus during this phase by establishing six working Vision Action Teams charged with developing and recommending action plans for each of the six focus areas.
The final Hillsboro 2020 Vision and Action Plan was officially reviewed and adopted by the City Council in May, 2000.