Demographic change – and its influence on local communities and the population – are probably some of the most talked about social and political issues. Especially in rural communities, the effect of the declining and ageing population is already noticeable. It is these smaller communities that are having to put most thought into ways to safeguard the standard of living and housing. One such community, the Black Forest spa town of Bad Peterstal-Griesbach, has placed proactively shaping the process at the top of its agenda. Supporting it on this important undertaking is the Steinbeis Consulting Center for Regional and Urban Development.
One of the key issues to be tackled by the team is which foundations need to be laid to safeguard the provision of key services in the decades to come: whether provided by private or public bodies, people need a social and physical infrastructure, not to mention retail outlets. The political will to start tackling the challenges of tomorrow – today – prompted the community in the Black Forest spa town to invite the Steinbeis consultants from Kaiserslautern to work up a community development concept. The Steinbeis consulting company specializes in regional and urban development issues as well as location consulting and “regional and location marketing”. Everything they do is based closely on actual practice.
Two of the most pressing issues in the community at the moment are: the doublefigured decline in population in percentage terms – partially caused by young people moving away for their education; the decline in the number of local jobs. The percentage of older inhabitants is already disproportionately high, and is set to keep rising. By contrast, local kindergartens and schools are bracing themselves for even lower attendance rates.
Basic supplies and everyday services such as buying groceries or going to the post office or bank are already in place today, but given the trend for retailers and service providers to gradually withdraw from peripheral areas with weaker infrastructures, how can the community ensure that there is still plenty of choice and variety in the future? The aim of the project, and the main task for the Steinbeis consultants is to provide pointers and development goals to help create a sustainable future for the Black Forest community – a type of template providing orientation and development guidance, across the board. Building on a structural analysis, which involved an evaluation of the current situation, the strengths and weakness of the community were mapped in key areas such as: population, housing trends, transport, economy, the employment market, education, social infrastructure, retailing, services, recreation, and tourism. The team then highlighted opportunities and threats facing the community in the future. By using empirical research techniques such as written surveys and interviews conducted by experts, the analysis also took into account the local population’s opinions, wishes, and expectations, as well as those of key figures in the local community.
By the end of 2008, the Steinbeis consultants will present the community of Bad Peterstal-Griesbach with future strategies, specific measures tailored to the local situation, and actions for translating the strategies into practice. The key priorities will be aspects such as the population, housing, the economy, employment, tourism, the health system, the infrastructure, utilities and retailing. An action and implementation plan will provide the community with a template for future developments on the one hand and a platform for carrying out community projects on the other.