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Group eyes Middlebury business

MIDDLEBURY — The Better Middlebury Partnership (BMP) wants to hear local business owners’ views on the challenges and advantages of operating in Addison County’s shire town, so that future changes can be made to improve local commerce.
With that in mind, the BMP is circulating its second survey of the winter, this one featuring 32 questions polling Middlebury business owners on their impressions of municipal services, help they might need to become more prosperous, and what local events seem to best stimulate customer traffic.
“We will have the survey results analyzed and use the information as a cornerstone for our business retention and growth program,” reads a BMP letter accompanying the survey.
The BMP’s first survey, initiated last month, was targeted more toward marketing and what consumers believe would enhance their shopping experience in Middlebury. BMP officials believe combining results from both surveys will give them a more complete picture of how to boost the local economy.
The confidential business surveys are being mailed or hand-delivered to all of the businesses in Middlebury. An electronic version of the survey was expected to be available on the BMP Website at www.bettermiddleburypartnership.org by this Thursday, Jan. 19.
BMP president Donna Donahue said the organization would have preferred to administer the survey by e-mail, but some key information was lacking.
“The reason we are doing it (by mail) is because the town does not have a comprehensive list of e-mail addresses for businesses,” Donahue said, noting the survey should, as a byproduct, produce such a list.
Donahue wants the completed business surveys in by Jan. 27, and the consumer surveys in by Jan. 20. Three Middlebury College interns will help collate the results, to be released in late February.
Business survey respondents are asked, among other things:
• To “agree” or “disagree” with such statements as, “I feel safe downtown, even at night,” “Middlebury is an excellent place to have a business,” and “the existing local business mix helps my business.”
• Whether they are experiencing challenges from such influences as expensive rent, insufficient parking, shoplifting, vandalism, Internet competition and/or difficulty in retaining employees.
• If they could use help with such things as financial planning, building improvements, window displays and e-commerce planning.
• What additional enterprises they believe might complement their business.
“It has many useful aspects to it,” Donahue said of the survey. “The feedback can tell us what is missing and what customers would like to see … I think the information will be helpful to businesses and the community as a whole.”
Respondents are asked to return completed surveys to: Donna Donahue, Better Middlebury Partnership, P.O. Box 853, Middlebury Vt., 05753, or drop them off at National Bank of Middlebury on Main Street, Middlebury.
Reporter John Flowers is at johnf@addisonindependent.com.

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