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Weber group surveying concerns of businesses

WEDC is checking 100 companies with goal of retention

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OGDEN — A corporation devoted to Weber County economic development is trying its best Richard Dawson impersonation by seeing what "the survey says."

The Weber Economic Development Corp. is in the midst of surveying 100 companies in the area to find out what issues, concerns or suggestions they have. The goal is to improve business retention by addressing company comments.

"It's designed to help us identify things we should be targeting to help our local industry," said Ron Kusina, who became executive director of the organization in the spring. WEDC is a private, nonprofit corporation that tries to stimulate the economy in the county with new investments and job creation.

"That's my No. 1 focus," Kusina said of business retention. "Although the attraction stuff gets the attention of people, the bread and butter is keeping our businesses here. That's what I feel the need to put the strongest emphasis on, and the survey will give me better information to better plan what I need to do in the position I'm in and to present to others who can further the cause."

The survey is being used to collect information about the quality of the local business environment, products and services, markets, work force characteristics and needs, and other types of information. WEDC has tailored survey questions based on a questionnaire provided by the Utah Division of Business and Economic Development's Business Expansion and Retention, or BEAR, program.

Forty surveys have been distributed and the corporation is completing a list of 60 more to have out by the end of the month. Follow-up in-person visits have been made with seven of the first 40 companies. "We will spend whatever time it takes to discuss issues or concerns the company has with regard to the (survey) questions," Kusina said.

The survey and follow-up work might be finished in September, but once 10 or so responses are received, the corporation will forward them to the state division. The state officials will prepare a summary report that will identify trends the WEDC can address.

"The vast majority of information that refers to things locally controlled, I'm fairly confident that between the county government and communities with businesses in them, that we can address problems we see in that context," Kusina said. The corporation also is coordinating with the Weber Applied Technology Center to tackle quality and training issues.

The survey information also might help bolster the area's economic development efforts which face outside influence, such as state help in providing tax incentives for expanding businesses.

"Things are coming back as I anticipated," Kusina said. "I'm pleased with the responses so far. The companies are identifying things we can do to improve our efforts."

That's exactly what the organization is looking for, according to Dick Dahlkemper, president and chief executive officer of the Chamber Ogden/Weber, which is working with the corporation on business expansion and retention initiatives.

"This should help provide WEDC with indicators regarding needed products and services within the county, as well as help to identify potential suppliers for business recruitment efforts," Dahlkemper said.

"This is," Kusina said, "a fairly comprehensive survey that will benefit us. I want to do it maybe every two or three years. We're asking for significant information from companies we really respect."

E-MAIL: bwallace@desnews.com