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Br&E study struggles to finish, report coming

By Tristan Marks

Little interest and weak survey response have been an ongoing challenge facing those conducting a business retention and expansion (BRE) study for the Town of Grimsby, says project lead Susan Manuel.

The comments were made during a standard program milestone review given by Manuel at Grimsby Economic Development Committee’s meeting held Sept. 22.

The program launched in April of this year with an online survey rolled out in May. During an earlier presentation to Grimsby council, Manuel said only one survey had been completed. A more aggressive approach brought in about two dozen surveys before a different, shorter survey was created in an attempt to get greater input from the business community.

The survey aspect of the BRE was cut off at the end of September.

“Five months of trying to get survey; it’s been really difficult. There is an incredible lack of engagement between our local businesses and our Town,” said Manuel, a committee member.

“Confidentiality and just lack of confidence that we would do productive things with this information,” were cited as key
stumbling blocks in the process.

“It’s been a struggle, but we have tried to come at it from many directions to connect and engage with our local businesses.”

With little input on the initial survey, Manuel explained the committee opted to devise a shorter, four-
question online survey.

“If we can’t get the type of traction that we’re looking for on the full survey, what are other ways we can get information from our businesses that will help us to better understand where we’re at and where we need to go to deliver a healthy relationship,” she said.

With about 25 surveys completed in the first several months, Manuel said they now have 55 total responses, with the short poll “basically double our survey intakes’ after five months.

With the next steps set to deal with working with data received, committee members were not sure how results from two different surveys could be augured into a concerted focus.

Committee member Mike Williscraft, Grimsby Downtown Improvement Area board’s president, how the short poll was constructed.

“It’s directed at individual businesses but it is open, so you don’t have to register. You don’t have to claim or present which business you’re from or what your name is,” said Manuel.

Williscraft said it would be difficult to assimilate information from a very informal poll with the initial details sought in the initial survey.

“We’ll be looking at every one of them if we’re finding some oddities in the answers,” said Manuel.

Manuel said the survey information will be drafted into a final report to be delivered to Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs and be forwarded to Grimsby’s economic development strategy working group.

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