DEARBORN, Mich. – The Dearborn Chamber of Commerce hosted its first annual Walk-About in late fall, 2011. The Business 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. Participants—who included civic leaders, Chamber members and staff – visited 105 local businesses.
The Walk-About concept was modeled after a similar event held by the South Placer Business community 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 in California.
The walk paired one Dearborn Chamber of Commerce member with one City staffer or official for 12 teams. Groups focused on several key business districts, including West Dearborn (from Mason to Telegraph on Michigan Ave.), East Dearborn (Greenfield, Warren and Schaeffer), Monroe, and Telegraph between Oxford and Ford Rd.. Each pair 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?
When asked “How is business,” more than half of respondents indicated that business “was good, could be better.” An overwhelming majority (89%) said business was “okay or better.” While these responses represent a positive business climate, 11% admitted that business was suffering.
When asked “What do you like most about doing business in Dearborn?,” 31% indicated that they liked their locations most, followed closely by community atmosphere. Twenty-two percent appreciated their client base and demographics best. The findings for “What can be done to improve business,” showed that 23% answered “other.” When asked for details, responses included filling empty store fronts, lowering taxes, parking lot issues and city cooperation. Twenty percent hope for traffic flow improvements and 20% hope for improved economy.
“We can’t promise any kind of immediate results to issues that business owners identified, 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,” said Barry Murray, the director of the City’s Economic and Community Development Department.
The report findings will be distributed to each participating business, Chamber leadership and city officials for review. According to Jennifer Giering, President of the Dearborn Chamber of Commerce, two Walk Abouts are scheduled for 2012 to continue the momentum of this outreach effort. The Dearborn Chamber intends to present its findings at an upcoming City Council meeting. The Chamber provides more than 500 members with the opportunities and resources to engage and network with other businesses, enhancing financial growth, professional development, and the ability to contribute to a thriving community environment.