Stakeholder Engagement takes spookiness out of project
When National Grid’s Salem, MA Cable Replacement Project began, the local community was less than thrilled. The two aging transmission cables that needed to be replaced traverse a short distance, but are located in one of Salem’s busiest and most congested neighborhoods. The streets are narrow and many small business merchants rely on tourism for their livelihood. This is especially important in the summertime and in October, when the city pulls out all the stops for its month-long Haunted Happenings Halloween celebration that draws thousands of revelers. Residents and business owners alike bristled at the thought of the disruption they envisioned the project would cause.
What they didn’t count on was the herculean effort put forth by the project team to minimize inconvenience for the community through a carefully considered approach to construction and scheduling. The team also mounted a comprehensive public outreach/engagement program that included the following:
- a website featuring real-time updates on construction schedules and pedestrian advisories
- a weekly newsletter
- an opt-in project email
- text updates
- extensive social media engagement through Facebook, Twitter and Instagram
The result? A minimal number of calls or emails to the project team about problems. In fact, the feedback from several business and community leaders has been very positive, citing the team’s communication efforts and minimal disruptions to business – especially during the summer and oh-so critical October.
And the executive director of Salem’s Chamber of Commerce wasn’t shy about praising the project team’s hard work – check out his comments in this Salem Evening News article.
“We knew we had a lot to prove to the community and what was at stake for them, so we did everything we could to keep everyone informed during construction and minimize our impact on the community and local businesses,” said lead stakeholder relations specialist Stacy Blundell. “This was a very important reliability project; these cables serve thousands of customers in communities north of Boston, so stakeholder engagement had to be at the forefront to ensure we could complete it without delays.”
As the project moves into the removal phase for the old, obsolete direct-buried transmission cables, the team will continue to work to minimize disruption for local residents and businesses and keep an open dialogue with the City of Salem and its many active community partners.