What are the challenges businesses face in Homer? That’s what the Homer Economic Development Advisory Commission hopes to answer by surveying business owners in the city.
Commissioner Rachel Lord presented a plan to the Homer City Council Monday that would survey businesses within city limits.
The commission hopes the data collected will help the city better understand ways it can help businesses.
“Our job growth and our economic development really is going to likely come most from the success and retention of the businesses we currently have,” Lord said.
Lord explained the commission wants more than anecdotal information. It hopes to find out what types of businesses are within the city, if there are employment and training issues and if sales are up or down among several other data sets.
Lord added that information would aid the council while making decisions affecting businesses.
“So what are the things that the city can do? There are a lot of things that are outside of the city’s control, but hopefully we can sift through and see what are the levers that the city can pull to better support our business community,” Lord said.
The Kenai Peninsula Economic Development District has also been feeling out the current mood of the business climate. The economic development group conducted a similar survey (survey results can be found on page 89) across the borough in 2015 and 2016.
“The survey, what we did is go out and visit with over 115, 120 different businesses around the Kenai Peninsula talking to them about a variety of different things trying to identify trends,” Tim Dillon said, the group’s executive director.
He explained one of the predominant issues businesses faced was housing for new employees during the summer months. The survey also asked several questions about optimism in the economy and workforce availability, which about 54 percent of respondents found was not sufficient.
Dillon added that he’s excited about the possibility of a Homer-specific survey.
“People wanted information that was specific to their area, especially the Kenai Peninsula. A lot of times when you see economic data, you see the United States, you see Alaska and you see Anchorage,” Dillon elaborated. “You’re not seeing Kenai Peninsula data. We’re trying to drill down and provide that information for folks.”
The economic group is working towards launching another borough-wide survey that will be more data driven. The survey in Homer would run beginning next month through October if approved by the council on May 30. The commission is also requesting up to $1,400 for outreach materials.