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The Community and Regional Planning Department of the Western Piedmont Council of Governments received a 2016 Innovation Award from the National Association of Development Organizations (NADO) Research Foundation for the Newton Strategic Growth Plan. The City of Newton requested technical assistance from Western Piedmont Council of Governments (WPCOG) in developing a Strategic Growth Plan to guide the City in the coming years. City leaders and staff believed Newton needed a clear vision of how to capitalize on its central location as the county seat of Catawba County and to clarify ways to attract new residential and commercial development to the City.

City and WPCOG staff facilitated four meetings to generate action items on Economic Development, Infrastructure, Transportation (including Parks and Recreation) and Public Safety. These meetings were held on four consecutive Thursdays, gathering at Newton City Hall from 5 until 7 pm. Newton staff worked together with WPCOG representatives to present information and data to interested citizens and hear presentations on these four areas. The core of those sessions was presented in the final report, together with the solutions developed from those meetings. Action items, listed at the conclusion of each section, propose ways the City can move proactively to solve concerns in each area.

WPCOG staff also wrote additional sections of the report including a brief history of Newton and a “Newton Data Analysis.” The Data Analysis section of the Plan reveals information about the population, housing and economics of Newton compared to Catawba County and North Carolina. The data also examines past and present trends for Newton. The analysis was used to predict future conditions in the City and to develop goals and objectives of the Plan.

The purpose of the action items in the Newton Strategic Growth Plan is to bring economic development to the City and to improve the quality of life of City residents. The goal of economic development action items, for example, is to provide new jobs and commercial/retail opportunities to downtown and other areas in Newton. The improvements will also benefit persons visiting Newton from elsewhere in the region. The economic development action items, therefore, also have economic benefits for the entire region, not just for Newton. Implementing the economic development action items also has the additional benefit of increasing Newton’s property and retail sales tax base. Transportation and infrastructure improvements improve mobility for City residents and make Newton a desirable place to work, live and play. Implementing the public safety action items also improves the quality of life for City residents.

Newton City Council approved the Newton Strategic Growth Plan in July 2015. Since adoption, the City has already taken action on several items presented in the Plan. For example, over the past year Newton has been working to complete the City’s wayfinding project with additional welcome signs and landscaping.  Additional economic development has already occurred, as a new Walmart Neighborhood Market came to Newton in 2016.

 “Newton City Council adopted the Newton Strategic Growth Plan just over a year ago,” Newton Mayor Anne P. Stedman said. “Since then, the plan has guided us as we’ve worked to expand and improve our infrastructure and provide our residents with a higher quality of life. Putting together a plan like this—one that looks at our present and future needs—takes a great amount of time, effort and innovation. The plan offers us guidelines to effectively grow the City while maintaining the small-town charm that so many of us love about Newton. I would like to thank the Western Piedmont Council of Governments for helping Newton make this plan a reality.”

“Newton City Council and my staff use the Newton Strategic Growth Plan every day to help move the City of Newton into the future,” Newton City Manager Todd Clark said. “In addition to the dozens of Newton residents who provided input for the plan, I would like to thank the Western Piedmont Council of Governments for their assistance. From compiling complicated research to steering our public input meetings, the WPCOG staff was with us every step of the way. The services the WPCOG provides to Newton and surrounding municipalities are of great value. I thank the WPCOG for helping us create such an important plan.”

NADO is a Washington, DC-based association that promotes programs and policies that strengthen local governments, communities, and economies through regional cooperation, program delivery, and comprehensive strategies. The association’s Innovation Awards program recognizes regional development organizations and their partners for improving the economic and community competitiveness of our nation’s regions and local communities.

Award-winning projects were honored during NADO’s 2016 Annual Training Conference, held October 15-18 in San Antonio, Texas.  The 2016 class of award recipients consists of 96 projects spanning 28 states. These projects are presented in an interactive “Story Map” developed by NADO and Esri and include project summaries, funding information, and partners. The Story Map is available online at:    

“Since 1986 through its Innovation Awards program, NADO has recognized the transformative work regional development organizations perform every day. Award-winning projects showcase best practices across the country in regional development that support prosperous communities, stronger local economies, and improved quality of life for residents,” said 2015-2016 NADO Board President Jeffrey Kiely, Executive Director of the Northwest New Mexico Council of Governments, located in Gallup, New Mexico.

For more information about this award-winning project, contact John Marshall, Director of Transportation & Planning for the WPCOG, at or 828.322.9191.

Since 1967 the National Association of Development Organizations (NADO) has provided advocacy, education, networking, and research for the national network of 540 regional development organizations. NADO members provide professional, programmatic, and technical assistance to over 2,300 counties and 15,000 municipalities.


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