Oak Creek officials likely will receive bad news and calls for help from local businesses responding to an economic development survey.
But even a negative response will let city planners gauge the state of the local economy.
“It certainly seems like a very useful concept to find out about any challenges before they become critical and it needs to close or needs to move somewhere else,” said Barbara Wesener, executive director of the South Suburban Chamber of Commerce.
Oak Creek’s Community Development Authority is considering mailing surveys to businesses and meeting with business owners to get feedback about what they need from the city, said Doug Seymour, Oak Creek director of community development.
“You get a better return on investment by really growing the businesses that you have here, than by going after somebody in Texas or something like that,” he said.
Wesener predicted responses across the board, from those that are doing OK to others that won’t survive the year.
“There are others that are hoping for a much better 2010,” she said. “They need to do what they can to cut back or make sure they can still be viable.”
The city of Brookfield, which has surveyed its businesses for eight years, is reviewing the 2009 responses, said Patrick Drinan, Brookfield economic development coordinator and president of the Wisconsin Economic Development Association. The responses are more negative, he said.
“There’s more of a dissatisfaction with the upcoming year compared to years past,” Drinan said. “It seems there is more of a negative mind-set in terms of what businesses are facing.”
Given the chance to tell Oak Creek development officials how to help, Oak Creek Plumbing Inc. leaders would ask for help finding land in the city or money to build, said John Wright, director of new business development for the company.
Oak Creek Plumbing is trying to grow this year by breaking into the market of building accessible bathrooms for senior housing, Wright said. To expand its business into commercial properties and larger assisted-living communities, the company will need more space.
“It’s certainly part of the game plan if we aggressively pursue this,” he said, “which we are.”
Seymour said Oak Creek’s Community Development Authority is starting to consider the concept of regular surveys, and has not reached the point of knowing what subsidies or regulatory support it could offer. Seymour this year will ask the city’s Community Development Authority board to consider the survey plan.
“It’s probably not something that’s new when you look nationwide,” he said. “There are certainly lots of people that do it. But I think it is new to Oak Creek.”