Who wants help? Who’s giving it?

Norman Butler, proprietor of the Contented Cow and Chapati Indian Resaurant, emailed this New York Times story to me this morning. He, among other people in Northfield, have asked me to pursue another business story. Earlier in my time here, I wrote about what some downtown businesses were doing to combat the looming economic downturn. Now, I want to see what business people are out there looking for help and who or what is helping them the most. Input welcome!

Update 6:15 p.m. 1/20/09: I posted a survey in a comment below that I am handing out to business owners as part of my reporting.

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21 Comments

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21 responses to “Who wants help? Who’s giving it?

  1. So far I’ve emailed Ross Currier of the Northfield Downtown Development Corporation, Rick Estenson of the Economic Development Authority, Mayor Mary Rossing, Brian O’Connell, community development director, Joel Walinski, interim city administrator, Jody Gunderson, EDA director. Rick emailed back to say he’s busy the rest of the day and might be able to talk tomorrow. Oh well! I’m off to start calling/visiting businesses.

  2. I’m going to deliver the following survey to as many businesses as I can. Please feel free to complete it for me if you want to participate!

    “Help Us Help You”
    A survey that will help Bonnie Obremski, an independent online journalist, find out what Northfield businesses need and who can meet those needs. The results will be published in a story on LocallyGrownNorthfield.org. For more info, see RepJBonnie.wordpress.com

    I will collect the survey on Thursday after 12 p.m. on Jan. 22, 2009. Alternatively, you can email me your responses at Bonnie.Obremski@gmail.com with the subject “survey,” or call 774-272-0730. Answers can be as brief or long as you like, any information helps. Thank you!

    Name and title (if you prefer to be anonymous, say so or just use your first name):

    Name and location of business (again, you can be anonymous, or indicate the kind of business you own):

    Contact information:

    What, if any, business-related organizations are you a member of?

    If you are a member, please say why you joined, what the organization does for you and the level of satisfaction you have with that organization.

    How can organizations or other members of the Northfield community help businesses in the city?

    How has the national economic situation and recent advances in technology, such as the Internet, affected your business, if at all?

    Out of all the ways you try and promote your business, what produces the most results?

    Other information that could help me find out more about how Northfield could improve its businesses:

  3. I handed out 30 business surveys and plan to issue 30 more tomorrow morning.

    Ross told me he’d get back to me soon about he questions I asked him, as did Kathy Feldbrugge, executive director of the Chamber of Commerce.

    The business owners I distributed to were all downtown and seemed pretty receptive. Tomorrow, I want to hit some businesses beyond.

  4. I’ve finished handing out the surveys and have yet to hear back from anyone. I hope this method works!

  5. Pingback: PJ’s Fabric and Crafts the first to complete survey « Bonnie Obremski, RepJ

  6. I’m talking with Kathy from the Chamber tomorrow at noon in her office. She preferred we meet face to face rather than via email or phone and I agreed that would be better.

    When I first left a message for Kathy with someone at the Chamber, I said I was writing a story about business resources. Then, I emailed Kathy some questions and she thought they were strange because they didn’t seem to have much to do with business resources. She said my questions seemed as if someone had obviously complained about the Chamber. I told her that it’s true I’ve heard criticisms of the Chamber, and the Northfield Downtown Development Corporation and the city government, etc.

    So I don’t want to make it seem like I’m following one complaint and picking on one organization. I want to find out information that can show all of us what’s out there in terms of resources, who wants to do more to help and what business owners need.

    Here are the questions I asked Kathy:

    What is the most important thing the Chamber does for businesses?

    How is the Chamber striving to do better?

    What is the Chamber’s relationship with other city groups that have some similar goals of helping promote business? I’m especially interested in the relationship between the Chamber and the NDDC. I’ve heard it might not be the best and I’m wondering if that’s true, why that is.

    Does the nationwide economic situation and the increasing advances in technology affect the Chamber and the city’s businesses? What are some ways that shows?

    How many people belong to the Chamber?

    Is the Chamber growing, shrinking or staying the same?

  7. Pingback: Swag survey in « Bonnie Obremski, RepJ

  8. Pingback: By All Means Graphics completes survey « Bonnie Obremski, RepJ

  9. I got a third response to a survey. The owner of the photography-related business wished to remain anonymous. So I’ll post the information in that survey here instead of featuring it in its own post.

    “I am a member of the Chamber

    I joined it to support the community.

    Shopping locally and promoting businesses around town is a huge thing community members can do. Word of mouth is the best advertising for a small business, so if you like a store in town tell people about it.

    As a photographer, technology has drastically changed my business. I have to constantly inform people about copyright laws. As technology has become more accessible (scanners, photo printers etc.) people reproduce photos without conscience. On the upside, I love digital photography and how it has changed my workflow.

    Word of mouth is the best promotion.”

  10. Ross Currier answered my questions this morning and he is waiting for Keith Covey, president of the NDDC board, to contribute input as well.

    I’m still waiting on Rick Estenson and others from the city government to respond.

    I emailed the Northfield Enterprise Center and the Rural Enterprise center for input and I’m waiting to hear back from those organizations.

  11. Pingback: Sketchy Artist submits survey « Bonnie Obremski, RepJ

  12. I spoke with Rick Estenson, spokesperson for the EDA, Blake Abdella of the Northfield Enterprise Center, and Kathy Feldbrugge yesterday. They all gave me some good perspective, but now I’m realizing that I have to start digging up some numbers, “hard facts” and figures. After collecting surveys today door to door I’m going to head to city hall and see what I can find out.

  13. I spent a few hours collecting surveys on Friday. It was exhausting but interesting. Quite a few people answered my questions and wanted to talk to me more when they handed their responses to me. The people who did not complete the survey mostly said that they just lost it or hadn’t gotten around to it. One person said “These questions don’t apply to us,” which seemed strange since I’m positive they could have answered at least one of the questions, given that they had a Chamber member sticker on their door. I didn’t press it. Another person said he answered the questions, but decided afterward he didn’t want to participate.

  14. Pingback: More surveys in « Bonnie Obremski, RepJ

  15. Pingback: Additional surveys emailed « Bonnie Obremski, RepJ

  16. Pingback: Surveys in for Vet Clinic and Just Food « Bonnie Obremski, RepJ

  17. Well folks, this story is taking a lot longer than I thought. I’ve done all of my interviewing, I think. The trouble now is finding all the numbers I’d like to include in the article. I’m trying to find out the budgets of each organization for example. Asking the questions about dollars has gotten some people worried that I’m going to do an unjust expose on people’s salaries, or something like that. I’m always worried someone will take offense when I start asking money questions. However, asking a person’s philosophy is just one part of telling a story (a very important part). The other part of the story are the figures that give weight and context to what the leaders are saying. I want to be far not to “create heat instead of shedding light” as one person has put it so far. Here’s hoping my requests for data come in soon. In the meantime, I’m working on a kind of sidebar business story about a few professionals in Northfield who are collaborating with college interns to start businesses here.

  18. Thanks for everyone’s patience with this story, I’m still waiting for a data request to come through with City Hall and the Chamber. I hope to have all the information I need next week.

  19. City Hall is still working on my data request for this story after nearly 2 weeks, this is what Deb Little told me yesterday:

    Bonnie,

    We are working on this. I do not have an estimate of when. I will get back to you with an update on progress tomorrow.

  20. Pingback: Business survey reveals some needs met, others not : Locally Grown

  21. You have made some good points there. I looked on the internet
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    found most people will go along with your views on this
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