Engage Early


The sooner you engage in the work of community transition, the better off your community will be. Some of the most successful communities we’ve seen began openly discussing, planning for, and funding their transition work as soon as the knowledge of a plant or mine closure came to light—even if that closure was still years away. Below are two examples of communities that started their planning at different times in the transition process.

Early engagement depends 100% on leadership. Leadership comes in all forms and will include representation from every part of the community, especially low-income communities and communities of color that have been left behind by the status quo. Local leaders must have access to funding and information to lead you through all of the steps of transition: gathering facts, engaging community, visioning and planning for the future, and finding funding.


Photo credit to Sam Levitan and the Natural Capital Investment Fund

Identify Your Leadership Team

Transition is a complex process. Everyone will have their own interests, priorities, and values as your planning process unfolds. Look for transition team leaders who are knowledgeable about the economy of the community and region, have experienced the impacts of the closure, are trusted, and have influence with others who might provide resources to support your effort. Those whose lives are impacted the most or who have been sidelined or overlooked in the past should be at the center of the decision-making process about what comes next. And remember—the most effective leaders for transition may not be the “usual suspects.”

It’s important to engage the plant or mine owners in the conversation and potentially invite them to join your transition team.  While it can be challenging to find the right person, they can provide essential information about decommissioning and closure as well as possibilities for reuse or redevelopment of the closing site.

Some of your leadership team members may be involved during the entire process. Others might best contribute during certain phases. Throughout the process, leaders must create a safe space for engagement so that all impacted stakeholders feel comfortable participating. This is necessary to ensure that the community visioning process is authentic and meaningful. 

A sample transition team might include:

  • Individuals from federal, state, regional and local government
    Bring knowledge of municipal processes, including land use and zoning requirements, options for legislative actions, and environmental policies and processes for remediation
  • Individuals from labor
    Bring knowledge of worker needs and skill sets that can be beneficial when planning for retraining and workforce development programs
  • Community members
    Residents and business owners bring knowledge of community assets, needs, and skill sets
  • Non-profit or faith-based organizations
    May foster trust and bring volunteer and other resources
  • People from academia
    Bring resources for research and potentially knowledge from other cases of economic transition
  • Tribal communities
    Bring knowledge of community needs and assets
  • Philanthropic groups
    Bring resources to nascent efforts and can help get transition planning processes off the ground
  • Issue experts
    School finance practitioners, local taxation and finance managers, realtors, community planners, union leaders, and economic development professionals can contribute valuable information throughout the process to move it forward. Each of these groups works within a framework that is essential to understand and will influence your success.
  • Representatives of the utility and owners of the site
    Have decision making power and will bring knowledge of site infrastructure and plans for the future

Representatives of the utility and owners of the site

Have decision making power and will bring knowledge of site infrastructure and plans for the future

Individuals from government

Bring knowledge of municipal processes, land use, and zoning

Individuals from labor

Bring knowledge of worker needs and skill sets that can be beneficial when planning for retraining and workforce development programs

Community members

Residents and business owners bring knowledge of community assets, needs, and skill sets

People from academia

Bring resources for research and potentially knowledge from other cases of economic transition

Tribal communities

Bring knowledge of community needs and assets

Non-profit or faith-based organizations

May foster trust and bring volunteer and other resources

Philanthropic groups

Bring resources to nascent efforts and can help get transition planning processes off the ground

Issue experts

School finance practitioners, local taxation and finance managers, realtors, community planners, union leaders, and economic development professionals can contribute valuable information throughout the process to move it forward. Each of these groups works within a framework that is essential to understand and will influence your success.