EDP seeks better grasp of area economic activity with business survey

Published 11:14 am Friday, February 17, 2017

The Danville-Boyle County Economic Development Partnership wants to be able to give better answers when people ask what it has accomplished. To do that, it’s going to conduct a survey and try to gather a list of what’s going on economically in the city and county, EDP Chairman Ben Nelson said.
But there’s a catch to the plan — some businesses might not want news of what they’re up to getting out.
“The idea is for the (EDP) partners to work together to expand the data collection,” Nelson said at the EDP’s board meeting Wednesday. “The Industrial Foundation does some polling, the Heart of Danville does some polling, the Main Street Perryville does some polling. But you’re not getting a full snapshot of what’s going on across the community. We’re trying to increase that, as well as increase our outreach.”
The survey is being sent out to various entities around the county, including members of the EDP, members of the Chamber of Commerce, members of area Main Street programs and local industries.
In addition to asking for basic information about business size, location and sales, the survey asks about where businesses’ employees live, plans for future expansions or reductions, skill levels of employees and opinions on the local business environment.
Nelson said early results from the survey are expected to be available for the EDP to review in April.
A lot of the surveys that have been done by different entities in recent years promise anonymity, which substantially lowers the value of the data, Nelson said. Instead, he advocated asking each business whether or not the information it provides could be shared publicly.
“There will be some businesses that want to make sure their results are not identifiable,” he said. “… So instead of us making a conclusion that the data is secret, why don’t we ask the businesses and let them tell us? Because some will want to and some won’t mind.”
“Does that lead to another data issue where you’re able to say some stuff but not all of it?” asked Jennifer Kirchner, director of the Convention and Visitors Bureau.
Nelson said that would indeed be the case.
The EDP board proceeded to review existing surveys and other data on economic activity from several different sources — data that was itself kept private and only shared with board members because of it’s “preliminary” nature, according to EDP President Jody Lassiter.
Without talking about what specific numbers they were seeing, Nelson guided the board through the different sources listed, including data from the state, the Chamber of Commerce, a listing of commercial projects the “EDP has touched,” the area Main Street programs and the Kentucky Tourism office.
Many of those sources are incomplete or don’t provide as much information as the EDP wants, Nelson said.
“Part of the survey is trying to find ways to say, ‘OK if we want to turn up our ability as a partnership to share across this community what’s happening that’s positive in terms of expansion and job creation, we’re going to have to find ways to try to get that data,” Nelson said.
“What I get asked more than anything else on this partnership deal is ‘can somebody tell me what you people are working on in terms of recruitment?’” he said. “Who is calling us up, showing some interest? Who are we in due diligence with and dancing with? Who did we win? Who did we lose? When we win, when we lose — Why did we win? Why did we lose?
“We need to be able to articulate that in a more explicit way.”