Thursday, December 3, 2009

Annual survey shows high downtown interest among Chamber members

Thirty-one percent of Greater Owensboro Chamber of Commerce members say they would “be interested in locating their business and/or starting a business downtown” and 17% say they would “be interested in living downtown” according to the annual legislative and local issues survey this fall.

Thirty-three percent of respondents indicated “their business would not work downtown” while 12% say they “are not in favor of the downtown plan.” Six-percent of respondents had no response to the downtown question. The survey was completed by 23% of Chamber members during September and October.

“That means that nearly half of respondents would like to have a business and/or live downtown,” says Chamber President Jody Wassmer. “That seems to be fairly significant support for what the plans the city and county have initiated in downtown Owensboro.”

The Chamber board of directors voted to support the “place-making initiative” plan last winter and subsequently took several members to Greenville, SC last May to see that city’s proactive downtown redevelopment. The group returned with the belief that Owensboro was on the right track to stimulate private downtown investment that would lead to increased commerce, tourism and economic development for the entire community.

Among other survey results, healthcare insurance costs and employee verbal and written communications skills were named as top concerns. Most businesses believe state employee public pension costs need to be reformed and local governments should “reduce services and live within their means” and not be allowed to implement local sales taxes to deal with rising costs. Most Chamber members also believe state government should better manage existing revenues and expenses and not implement a sales tax on services.

Fifty-six percent of members are in favor of expanded gaming as a way to raise revenues for the state while 38% don’t favor the issue.

To a question asking which education issue they believe is most important to Kentucky, Chamber members did not have a clear choice. Twenty-four percent favor “accountability through end-of-course exams and performance measures” and 20% indicated “mandatory pre-school and all-day kindergarten.”

In response to a question about the possibility of city-county government merger, 54% said they favor it with 27% indicating they “don’t know enough about it.” Fifteen-percent said they are not in favor of government merger. Those numbers are about a 5% drop in support for merger from the same question last year.

“I suspect the city and county government cooperation on the downtown plan has softened the support for merger somewhat at this time,” says Wassmer.

In questions related to the work of the Chamber, members indicated they believe the Chamber’s most important job is to market Greater Owensboro with legislative advocacy a close second.

“We’re making plans for being very proactive next year in telling the world about all the good things happening in Owensboro and Daviess County,” adds Wassmer.

Ninety-two percent of members gave the Chamber either an “excellent” or “good” grade in its lobbying/advocacy efforts on state and federal issues. 

The complete list of questions and responses can be seen on the Chamber’s website at www.owensboro.com/chamber by clicking the “What do Chamber members think?” link.