Getting local businesses to take part in a survey in 2020 is vital to the Huntsville Economic Development Commission, member Kevin Hatfield told the group at its meeting last week.
Conducting a business retention/expansion survey is required to be considered for the Competitive Communities Initiative from the Arkansas Economic Development Commission. The initiative has been in place since March 2018 and is a way for cities to assess their readiness for economic development.
The AEDC also wants a targeted industry study and local wage and benefits survey conducted before a community can be considered for the initiative program.
“These are three major things right there that I think we’ll not get our plan approved if we don’t have those done,” Hatfield told the commission. Hatfield said he would like to see the survey conducted in spring 2020.
“If we can’t get the businesses to help us, we’re doomed. That’s just the bottom line,” he said. “To get some business you need more industry, you need more people here, but there’s a certain amount of information we have to have, especially to be competitive, and this is that one requirement we were talking about. This ought to be at the heart of what the chamber’s talking all about and saying, ‘all our members, we’ve got to get this filled out.’”
The initial plan is to compile a list of all businesses, whether they are a member of the Huntsville Chamber of Commerce or not, then make personal contacts and send out the two-page survey.
The survey asks general information about a business, seeks input on the business climate in Huntsville, details on the number of employees, future business plans and a needs and opportunity assessment.
“If the businesses don’t give us the information we need, we’re at a standstill. We have really got to know what their problems are, what their suggestions are,” Hatfield said.
Chamber board member Jasmine Thompson told the commission, “We can start working on this now if you want us to.” The chamber has sent out its membership drive letters, but Thompson said the business survey would be brought up in future meetings.
Hatfield said, “If we don’t get a huge turnback on this, we might as well hang a ‘closed for business’ sign.” Hatfield said he is hoping to do the survey in March, April or May in 2020.
“We will have a planning meeting with all parties involved ... before we set out on this, so that we’re all on the same page.
“We need to have a plan set out about getting this done. We just want to do it sometime in 2020.”
In other business:
• Economic Development Director Nancy Marsh gave an update on the logo contest and winner. The Huntsville City Council tabled the issue of whether to accept the new design. Marsh said it could be put on city vehicles, paperwork and other locations.
“Everybody’s kind of going to branding now and so it would look good if everything on the city has the brand.”
• Thompson said the annual Christmas parade is planned for Saturday, Dec. 7, at 5:30 p.m. Entries may begin parking at 3 p.m. for final decorations. All entries must be in place by 4:30 p.m. to be judged.
The commission’s next meeting will be held at noon on Dec. 11 at the Arvest Bank annex.