At a Glance
In a time of rapid population growth, the leaders of Gilbert, Arizona used survey research to partner with residents to thoughtfully plan for the future. This strategy has contributed to 98% of residents rating the town as an excellent or good place to live and a national award.
The suburban town of Gilbert, Arizona has grown fast. In fact, its population has doubled every five years since 1980. By 2030, leaders expect Gilbert to complete its growth, with an anticipated population of more than 300,000.
Gilbert’s leaders have witnessed other communities whose quick growth has led to growing pains, or worse, if they weren’t prepared.
“Many suburban communities experience cycles of growth and decline. While Gilbert is currently in a cycle of growth, that could eventually change once the community is fully built-out in a decade or two,” said Patrick Banger, Town Manager.
Gilbert, Arizona used/is using Polco's National Community Survey to address this/these challenge(s).
Leaders in Gilbert have found that the best way to plan for the future is to focus on engaging the town's residents through survey research and other strategies.
“Our goal is to try and work with residents to understand on a much more specific level what we need to do to make sure that Gilbert still continues to thrive 20 years from now,” said Banger.
Gilbert regularly conducts The National Community Survey (The NCS) to gauge resident satisfaction with various aspects of community livability. Results from the survey help drive new programs, funding priorities, and organizational goals.
For example, Gilbert has recently invested significant infrastructure in parks and recreation opportunities as a result of feedback on The NCS.
Leaders engage residents in a wide variety of ways beyond The NCS as well. The Town’s Office of Digital Government manages over three dozen social media accounts and publishes a regular podcast. The Office also works with department leaders to craft and implement a digital roadmap strategy. The Town has won a number of awards as a result of this work.
In addition, Gilbert has an open data portal that helps tell Gilbert’s story using data. The portal is available to residents and shows relevant local trends and statistics. The portal also helps to showcase The NCS results.
These varied forms of engagement have contributed to the development of Gilbert’s new Town of the Future Plan. One component of the plan is to strategically maintain existing infrastructure over the next few decades. Another focus is innovative growth and economic development. The Town has developed a long-range financial plan and established an Opportunity Zone to spur smart development in Gilbert’s Historic downtown.
This dedication to transparency and planning has led Gilbert to be rated as a great place to live.
98 percent of residents rate the Town as an excellent or good place to live in The NCS. This level of resident satisfaction is so high that only four out of 395 other municipalities nationwide ranked higher. All measures of government quality also exceed the national benchmark.
“Our transparency and commitment to communication and engagement with our residents builds trust,” said Melanie Dykstra, Community Resources Supervisor.
For its efforts, Gilbert has received the 2020 Voice of the People award for Excellence in Foundations of Livability. This is the only national award that honors local governments based on feedback from residents.
“We will continue to solicit feedback, engage with our residents, and use data. We will not just sit back and let growth happen, but will proactively drive growth in ways that will have long-term benefits,” said Dyskstra.
- 98 percent of residents rate the Town as an excellent or good place to live in The National Community Survey (The NCS). Only four out of 395 other municipalities nationwide ranked higher.
- On The NCS, all measures of government quality exceed the national benchmark. In fact, many of these aspects also ranked in the top ten nationally.
- The town uses survey data to ensure it aligns projects and investments with resident needs as the town continues to grow.
- Gilbert recently invested heavily in parks and recreation opportunities as a result of resident feedback on The NCS.
The Town of Gilbert received the 2020 Voice of the People award for Excellence in Foundations of Livability. This is the only national award that honors local governments based on feedback from residents.
Who Should Consider?
Local government leaders who are passionate about improving resident engagement, especially those focused on planning smartly during periods of rapid population growth.