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Last Updated: December 22, 2016
Northwest Associated Consultants, Inc. (NAC) is a consulting firm based in the Twin Cities Metropolitan Area, providing community planning services to local government.  We serve public clients almost exclusively, including municipalities, townships, and counties.
Community Planning   Environmental Analysis
  Economic (Re) Development

NAC was founded in 1973 and has served more than 150 communities throughout the upper midwest, including our current roster of more than 35 clients.  For many of these communities, we have maintained an ongoing relationship, providing planning and zoning services for more than 35 years in some cases.

We serve a wide variety of places, from very small rural communities to rapidly growing municipalities on the fringe of the metro area, to mature, inner-ring suburban cities.  Our extensive range of municipal experience, combined with the expertise and background of our skilled staff, helps us adapt the most complete range of planning tools to the individual needs of nearly any community.

Plan:  A series of steps and actions to be carried out which are necessary to achieve a specific identified goal.

1. We are a firm of land use planners.  This is our focus and our core business.  We know this role and have both expertise and experience in this profession unlike anybody else.  While we have backgrounds in a wide variety of related disciplines, planning is the reason for our existence.

Why is this important?  For others, engineering or architecture firms for example, planning is a sideline.  This is true for those firms and their own “reason for being”, and often, for their staff.  While the firm may have recently brought on some staff with planning experience, their roles in the firm are little more than supportive or peripheral to the company’s core business. 
NAC does not rinse our planning advice through an engineering filter.  While engineering options have to be known to understand the ramifications of one land use choice versus another, you can trust that our recommendations, and our analysis, deal with the plain realities, and not whether one choice or the other would benefit some other core business focus.

2. We have decades of experience in the role of planning consultant.  We did not start up a planning division just a few years ago.  We did not raid some planning department of their staff just to be able to claim experience in the field.  Planning has been the central concentration of our firm – and our staff – since the firm’s inception in the early 1970s.  Our senior staff has been with NAC for more than 30 years, and we have represented many of our client communities for 20 or 30 years, and even more.   Moreover, over those years, we have represented scores of Minnesota communities on the broadest range of planning projects.

Why is this important?  Our professional lives are dedicated to understanding what communities are looking for, what developers, businesses, property owners, and residents value, and how the community’s relationship with its neighbors and the region interplay with its own interests and objectives.  The ONLY way to make good choices as a community official is to get advice that has the benefit of experience in this complex environment. 

As a company, our senior leadership together with our junior members regularly review current projects and issues, both within our client communities and the broader planning field.  We work together as a team to ensure that your community has exposure to the best choices, and can avoid common pitfalls that can be an issue when an individual, or a single firm with divided interests, is solely responsible for advising the community on planning-related issues.  We bring you a small, efficient organization, but with more than 100 cumulative years of municipal planning background.

3.  We focus our land use planning activities on municipal planning.  Every day, we sit at the table with residents and developers, property owners, entrepreneurs, and city staff, listening to the interests and goals and requirements that people have for their homes, their property, their livelihoods, and their community.  Many evenings every week, we are at planning commission and City Council or Town Board meetings, observing the way that local values play out in real-world scenarios.  Our role is to help the community define its planning objectives, create the tools to reach those goals, and help the individuals at both the work table and the council table fit their situations into that puzzle without compromising the community’s objectives. 

Why is this important?  While we have a deep understanding of private property needs and requirements, we hold primary respect for the role of the local community in efficiently managing the public investments necessary to facilitate and serve private land use.  Our loyalties are undivided in this way, yet we know how to harmonize the oft-competing interests of public planning and private development.

4. Our work is immersed in what your community needs and wants – not what the planner thinks you should have, or what you should be.  We are plain-spoken, and not particularly interested in planning jargon or trendy, splashy facades.  This does not mean that we are unaware of those trends, but we understand – truly understand - that planning is not about the planner.  The fact is, local goals, local resources, and local market conditions are far more likely to drive economic activity than platitudes from elsewhere.

Why is this important?  Too often, what happens in Portland, or is published in some planning journal, or what someone learned from some professor, becomes the planning gospel of the month.  Too many planners regurgitate the latest trends as the THING YOU NEED, and actively make those trends the central theme of the plans they write.  Are those things your things?  Maybe, but maybe not.  The planner needs to present material objectively and with a frank assessment of the relative costs and benefits – showing how those ideas fit (or don’t fit) with your community’s other goals. 
NAC has a history of doing just this.  The latest shiny new object may actually be the greatest idea in memory.  But it may also be a re-packaged shiny new object from the 1990s.  Can (or will) the planner tear through the packaging and tell the difference?  We have, over the past few years, seen dozens of “plans”, for which communities have paid tens of thousands of dollars, that repeat those platitudes and jargon, but which are completely detached from actual conditions unique to the community that conducted the planning effort.  It is, frankly, a sad commentary on the state of so-called land use planning in Minnesota.

5.  Our work is “outcome based”.  That is, our plans are truly roadmaps which you can use to accomplish the goals you have identified.  This is the very reason you are undertaking a planning project, after all.  Note above the definition of a “Plan”.  The purpose of planning is (1) to understand your community’s goals, (2) clearly state them, (3) scrupulously identify your resources or, perhaps, lack thereof, and then (4) create a plan that gets you from point A to point B, with a full appraisal of the costs and benefits of the chosen path – along with a comparison of how the promoted path ranks against other options. 

Why is this important?  If your community is going to invest significant funds to hire a planner to help it plan – whether on a day-to-day basis, or on a specific project – you will want to be certain that this investment is going to create something you will be able to use.  You want a product that five years from now you will say “I’m glad we have this document”.  Unfortunately, we have seen so many plans lately that give the community no useful direction in achieving anything substantive or concrete.  Instead, dozens of such “plans” are little more than directories of where to look on the internet for more information, or what project you should hire the consultant to do next.  This suggests that the planner did not have the requisite experience - or corporate support - to do what was the job called for.
True planning infuses the planning effort with an unrelenting attention to the need to accomplish something as a result of the plan.   What zoning issues are raised?  What engineering challenges do you face?  Implementation includes enough specific strategic steps so the community’s staff and officials can actually use the plan, doing much more than merely laying it on the coffee table in the reception area because it looks so pretty.  NAC’s planning history is based entirely on adhering to this principle.  It is the kind of expectations that we would want the public officials to demand in our own hometown communities when they spend our tax dollars.  And it is the kind of work that we would be proud to stand up in public and present to the taxpayers who paid us to prepare it. 


If you would like to learn more, or to inquire how we can serve you, please contact one our principals, Alan Brixius or Steve Grittman, or any other member of our staff.

4150 Olson Memorial Highway, Suite 320
Golden Valley, MN  55422
T:  763.957.1100


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