Asking the Right Questions

August 03, 1994

Westminster's business revitalization efforts get under way this month. These efforts received a big boost from the state, which is contributing $17,000 toward a $22,000 marketing survey of the city, its businesses and residents. The survey data will be the foundation for Westminster's business renewal plan. The strength of the plan depends on the validity of information to be gathered.

Conducted by HyettPalma, an Alexandria, Va., marketing company, the survey will query businesses in an area that might be loosely defined as downtown Westminster. Depending on the findings, the Westminster study may be a model for other small town renewal efforts throughout Maryland.

This survey is of extreme importance to Westminster's revitalization effort. It has been more than a quarter of century since the city had a marketing plan. The number of business closings and lack of new business development underscore the city's need for a fresh plan. Without good information, the Greater Westminster Development Corp. will have a tough time creating a strategy to re-energize the city's business district.

HyettPalma wants to obtain information from every business within the study area. Some of the questions will be very pointed -- the amount of rent a business pays, for example. Some business owners may resist answering these questions. As much as this may intrude into their privacy, this information is essential to a useful marketing plan. Without detailed statistical and economic information, the revitalization plan could end up with counterproductive recommendations and strategies.

All the responses collected from individual Westminster businesses will be kept confidential. However, the aggregate data will give the marketing firm, the GWDC and city officials a very accurate picture of current business conditions.

A telephone survey of Carroll residents and their shopping habits will be added to this information. Citizens will also have a chance to contribute their ideas at an evening meeting at the Fire Hall on Sept. 12.

By October, the firm is to release a marketing plan that will include a step-by-step timetable for breathing life into downtown's moribund business sector. By participating now, every business owner stands to reap future benefits.

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