Meeting NIMBY

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The development of commercial or industrial real estate is often delayed or even canceled due to unforeseen public issues. For example in 2004, the USA Today reported that Wal- Mart, the world’s largest public corporation, has encountered successive delays while attempting to construct one of its 40 planned super centers in California. Similar levels of resistance to other so called “big box” developments are cited, as reflected by legal action and voter hostilities throughout the United States, including the states of Washington, Kansas, Illinois, Ohio, South Carolina and Florida.

Situations such as these are uncomfortable for any corporation. They are clearly damaging from a public relations perspective. Moreover, they are intrinsically costly, negatively viewed by investors and tend to represent poor business decisions in general. These issues can become emotionally exacerbated and contentious legally if the property in question has a legacy of potential environmental impacts (e.g., brownfield developments).

From our perspective, many of these issues can, at times, be identified and better managed through strategic communications, thereby allowing one to avoid corporate consternation and negative public exposure. Over the past few years, many companies, including ours, have assisted a growing number of individuals, corporations and organizations in their efforts to gain a better understanding of the public relations issues that are often associated with the potential development of commercial or industrial properties. Many of these clients and colleagues have experienced problems similar to those mentioned above, albeit on a smaller, local or regional scale. As evidenced herein, however, most of these issues can be effectively managed by gaining a unique understanding of, as well as a better appreciation for, the local psychology and needs of the potentially impacted residents. While using data collected in the past (at times under privilege and confidentiality), thoughtful, intelligent and careful management of local human resources have been proven to preserve clients’ finances, to retain or even enhance favorable public opinion of their organizations, and to protect their investments.

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