After You Beat Them, Join Them
“As a responsible corporate citizen, O&G’s policy has always been to give back to the community, which provides a home to our various facilities whether it is a quarry, asphalt, plant or ready-mixed concrete plant and this should be an on-going process. This policy has historically been implemented in many ways including donating land for various public purposes, a town park for example, or donating materials for a civic-oriented project to name a few.”
The Internet can exacerbate a small problem with a single pit in a rural community thousands of miles from where you are currently trying to permit another site. Local opponents to an application in Utah can easily use a story of an incident in New Jersey in their campaign against you. These same opponents can also use unfavorable news coverage about angry residents complaining of cracking foundations, shaking windows, and non-responsiveness.
There will always be accidents and angry neighbors, no matter how hard you try, but the number of these media stories can be reduced greatly by maintaining relationships in each of your communities.
You should begin getting involved before you remove your first bucketful of overburden. Exactly how you go about it depends on the community, but it is always wise to reach out to any groups or neighbors who complain or fought your business approvals.
Establish a formal chain of communication and spokesman, and respond politely and promptly to any complaints. It’s better that you hear about problems rather than the city council or mayor. Even if they don’t always like your answer, people tend to appreciate the effort. It’s hard to maintain rage at somebody who meets you for a cup of coffee. Neighbors are much less likely to complain when they are informed in advance about what’s happening at your quarry or plant.
These relationships contain a long-term value. We have seen the absolutely positive impact when one of neighbor travels to another town to testify that he had been vehemently opposed to your application but now, since living near your operation, he is a supporter. That one person’s testimony will have more effect on that public hearing that the testimony of you, your attorney, and your expert witnesses combined.
Donate time, not just money
Sponsoring a youth sports team is only one starting point to building community good will. Most businesses simply write a check and that is it. But you can, without much effort, expand on this. Have someone from your company coach the team. Set up a tour of your facility and end with a cookout for players and their parents. In a small town with a local paper, you can invite a reporter to write a story about the tour and the cookout as well as take photos that will run in the newspaper. You also get to educate the parents about the benefits of the quarry and the misconceptions of the quarry in a nice, relaxed atmosphere.