Analysis of Strenghts, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats
The analysis of strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats is typically known by its acronym: SWOT. SWOT analysis is one of the first steps in the strategic planning process and has many applications in addition to municipal planning. For our purposes, we will consider how the Township’s own strengths and weaknesses as well as the opportunities and threats posed by external forces affect the Township’s ability to achieve the vision described in the preceding chapter. This will help us to develop a realistic action plan for implementation of this Comprehensive Plan.
While these four terms are hardly specialized vocabulary, it is always helpful to be specific about definitions. As alluded to in the preceding paragraph, it is important to realize that strengths and weaknesses both represent characteristics of the Township within its own borders. In contrast, opportunities and threats come from outside the Township.
Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats for Upper Providence
Based upon the input received from the public during the outreach process as well as empirical research, we have identified the following as the principal strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats for Upper Providence Township. This is not meant to be an exhaustive list, but simply to show the topics of greatest concern.
Strengths: Much of the Township has a rural character, despite the high level of development and proximity to the City of Philadelphia.
The Township is a highly desirable residential area.
There is quick access to central Philadelphia, the Philadelphia Airport, and other major centers within the region, such as King of Prussia.
Public water supply is available in most of the Township.
Public sanitary sewerage is available in the most densely developed part of the Township.
The public schools are recognized for providing high-quality education.
There is a relatively large supply of permanent open space within and immediately adjacent to the Township.
Municipal services – police and fire protection in particular – are well-regarded by residents.
Weaknesses: The transportation infrastructure needs improvement, as roads are congested, but there are few – if any – alternatives. Even walking is hazardous in some locations due to a lack of safe accommodation for pedestrians.
Limited non-residential development limits the fiscal capacity of the Township.
Lack of developable land limits opportunities to provide for new development that could generate significant tax revenue and places the Township at a disadvantage within the region.
Housing development is absorbing the few remaining open spaces and is burdening municipal services.
There is increasing inappropriate development of environmentally sensitive lands: steep slope areas and lands containing or immediately adjacent to floodplain areas are of particular concern.
There are limited opportunities for active recreation; the County and the school district own most the few that are within the Township.
The few Township parks and playgrounds appear shabby, which is most likely due to a combination of heavy use and inadequate maintenance.
There is little support for youth sports leagues.
There is little concerted effort in historic preservation: most preservation work within the Township has been executed by Delaware County.
The approval process for building permits is perceived as cumbersome, inconvenient, and time-consuming.
Opportunities: There is excellent passenger rail service to Philadelphia.
The Township is easily accessible to major retail and employment centers as well as Philadelphia International Airport.
There are several institutions of higher education in the immediate vicinity.
The Delaware County government, and the County Planning Commission in particular, has resources and expertise that are useful to local governments.
The County has successfully preserved key historic structures and features within the Township.
The boundaries of the Rose Tree Media School District create a multi-municipal association that could be a foundation for future cooperative efforts, particularly in the area of planning for recreational facilities and opportunities.
Surrounding municipalities face similar issues, suggesting the possibility of inter-municipal cooperation on the issues traffic management, recreation facilities, and trail development.
Threats: Development and traffic congestion in surrounding municipalities results in additional traffic and congestion problems in Upper Providence, particularly on Route 252.
The volume of traffic on U.S. Route 1 overburdens interchanges at Providence and State Roads.
There is heavy reliance upon private cars: while public transportation between the Township and central Philadelphia is readily available, it is nearly non-existent on other routes.
Housing demand within the region may have a negative effect upon the supply of affordable housing within Upper Providence.
Large-scale residential development in surrounding municipalities will burden services and public schools in addition to worsening traffic conditions.
The greater Philadelphia area is home to a number of major chemical production facilities. For purposes of emergency preparedness, various zones of influence have been established for each facility based upon the potential effect of a major mishap. The Township is within the “affected zone” for several of these facilities, indicating that an incident at any of these facilities would have a direct, nearly immediate, negative impact upon Upper Providence.
The c urrent regional economy/job market does not provide enough opportunities to attract highly skilled/educated workers or to retain recent high-school and college graduates.
Since there are few job opportunities within the Township, the strength of the municipal economy (including housing demand) is dependent upon the jobs available in surrounding regions, including Philadelphia, King of Prussia, and the greater Wilmington area.
The current reliance upon property taxes by the Township, School District, and County in combination with rapidly rising housing values creates a hardship for residents who are on a fixed income.
The relatively high tax rate for the School District makes it politically difficult for the Township to raise the municipal tax millage.
One of the challenges facing the Township is how to translate these observations into appropriate actions. One mechanism that can assist in this effort is the “SWOT Matrix,” which is reproduced below.
Evaluate ways to use strengths to take advantage of opportunities.
Consider how opportunities can be used to compensate for or overcome weaknesses.
Create strategies that will use strengths to avoid or to mitigate threats.
Develop defensive policies that will minimize weaknesses and avoid threats.
While this matrix may not include every possible action available to the Township, it is an excellent tool for developing effective and appropriate strategy. The details of this strategy will be described in subsequent chapters. For now, we observe that such analysis suggests the following potential strategies.
STRENGTHS - OPPORTUNITIES
STRENGTHS – THREATS
OPPORTUNITIES – WEAKNESSES
WEAKNESSES – THREATS
Adapted from Long-Range Planning, April 1992, H. Weihrich, “The TOWS Matrix: A Tool for Situational Analysis.”