First Impressions is just what the name suggests. It is a program that allows you to see your community through the eyes of a first-time visitor to identify a community’s strengths and areas of concern. Communities use this information to:

  • Evaluate the success of current development projects.
  • Set goals and priorities for new development.
  • Identify ways to strengthen community services.
  • Identify opportunities for community agencies, civic groups, city/county leaders, or economic development organizations.

The process promotes community vitality and enhances the environment for both residents and visitors.

Two communities of similar in size and characteristics are paired together.

In each community, a team of volunteers is assembled that will make a visit to the paired community. The team usually include business leaders, community and economic development directors, Chamber of Commerce members and other interested volunteers.

Teams agree to spend a day to conduct a community visit. They receive training with regard to what to look for on their visit, and to ensure that community evaluations are both thorough and standardized.

The community visits are unannounced. The volunteers explore residential, retail, and industrial areas, government offices, schools and points of interest. The visiting team members follow specific guidelines as they evaluate appearances, access to services, friendliness, and other community attributes.

The results of the visit are provided in a written report as well as a community presentation. Communities will receive comments, photographs and recommendations from the visiting team.

Recommendations are designed to identify ways a community can improve itself.

Ideally, communities utilize the results to identify projects or initiatives it can work on to enhance the quality of life for residents and improve the experience for visitors.

Participation is by request. Communities requesting to participate receive a visit from the consultant to explain the process and explore “sister city” possibilities. Once identified, information is exchanged between the two communities and a timeframe is established.

A sponsoring organization and contact person is identified.

A team of volunteers is assembled to conduct the community visit. Volunteers agree to attend a brief training program and spend a day for the visit.

A community-wide forum is organized for the presentation of the final report from the team that visits your community.

There are no fees to participate in First Impressions. The only costs are time, mileage, and meal expense during the exchange visit.