Most businesses doing well, chamber Walk-About reveals

DEARBORN — Almost 90 percent of business owners surveyed by the Dearborn Chamber of Commerce said business was OK to excellent. Eleven percent said their business was struggling or were ceasing operation.

The survey was conducted as part of the chamber’s inaugural Walk-About in October, in which 12, two-person teams of city employees and chamber members and staff visited 105 businesses along major business corridors in the city. Walk-About was designed to pinpoint successes and struggles in the community, which then allows business and civic leaders to use that information to help make Dearborn a more business-friendly community.

Groups focused on Michigan Avenue from Mason to Telegraph; Monroe Avenue; Greenfield, Warren and Schaefer roads; and Telegraph between Oxford and Ford Road. The business owners were asked three basic questions: “How is business?” “What do you like about doing business in the area?” and “What improvements are needed in the area?” Answer choices ranged from six to eight choices, including “other.”

To “How is business?” 9 percent responded “excellent,” 52 percent responded “good, could be better,” and 26 percent responded “OK.” Eight percent responded “struggling” and 3 percent responded “very bad, plan on ceasing operations.”

To “What do you like doing business in the area?” 31 percent said they liked their location most, followed by 25 percent who said they liked the community atmosphere, and 22 percent said they liked the clientele and demographics. Nine percent said they liked the city or county services and activities, and 5 percent said they liked the quality of life. Eight percent gave other reasons.

To “What can be done to improve business?” 20 percent responded “traffic and parking” and 20 percent responded “the economy;” 11 percent replied “visibility and promotion;” 8 percent responded “local regulations, fees and wages;” 7 percent responded “safety and security;” 7 percent responded “signage;” 4 percent responded “property owners and management issues;” and 23 percent responded “other.” When asked for details, responses included filling empty store fronts, lowering taxes, parking lot issues and city cooperation.

The report findings were distributed to each participating business, city officials and chamber leadership for review.

“We can’t promise any kind of immediate results to issues that business owners identified,” Economic and Community Development Department Director Barry Murray, “but this event gives us another opportunity to learn about the experiences of the business community, and help us to continue to respond in a relevant ways.”

Two Walk-Abouts are scheduled for 2012, chamber President Jennifer Giering said.

The Walk-About concept was modeled after a similar event held by the South Placer Business community in California in September 2010. South Placer is comprised of the Sacramento Metro Chamber, city of Lincoln, Lincoln Chamber of Commerce, city of Rocklin, Rocklin Area Chamber of Commerce, city of Roseville, Roseville Chamber of Commerce, and Placer County.