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PUMA Details Early Economic Survey, Requests More Responses

PUMA Meeting with County Representatives and Stakeholders

PUMA Meeting with County Representatives and Stakeholders

Prowers County representatives and PCDI Board members received a preliminary overview of the economic study recently conducted by PUMA, Progressive Urban Management Associates, on the last day of their most recent visit, Wednesday, May 25th.  “We’re at the mid-way point of our mission with you,” explained Brad Segal, President of the economic development firm hired to provide structure to the county’s efforts to attract new businesses to the area.  “I understand that as we are now bringing you a lot of the ‘what’ aspect of your assessment, all of you are really interested in the ‘how’ of attracting business development in Prowers County, and that will be developed at a later time,” he told the gathering.

Besides earlier personal visits to Wiley, Holly, Granada, Lamar and Hartman, the PUMA team asked area residents to take part in a brief, anonymous, on-line survey which detailed what the respondents felt were types of businesses or services they believed were most needed in their communities. Segal said there have been 300 responses so far, but twice that will provide a more accurate assessment.  Anyone wishing to take a few minutes for the survey can access it at https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/Prowers.

A brief summary of the key findings were discussed:

  • Most respondents feel a strong sense of pride for Prowers County and the rural character and affordability of life here were among the well-liked characteristics.
  • More retail and restaurant options such as a steak house or clothing stores, as well as family-friendly events would improve the lifestyle of the county.
  • Residents went out of town to shop mostly for clothing and medical services.
  • Nearly 20% listed a specific talent or skill they would like to put to use.
  • Approximately 25% said they would be interested in starting a new business if they had the resources to support them.
  • Current businesses/entrepreneurs said the resources/services most beneficial to them are financial such as small loans, financial incentives and idea sharing.
  • 80% of respondents said they see themselves living in Prowers County five years from now.
  • 50% of the respondents said they would be interested in starting a new business in the county if there were sufficient partners, expertise and technical assistance.

The survey’s demographics on the responders showed:
74% were from Prowers County
21% were employed by a government agency
13% were professionally employed
10% worked in education
6% Retirees
5.6% were in retail or restaurant businesses
5.2% were involved in agriculture

The ages of the responders were as follows:
37% were between 35 to 49 years
29% were from 50 to 64
21% were from25 to 34
11% were 65 and older
2% were 18 to 24

Segal stated that retail leakage, shopping outside the county accounted for a multi-million dollar loss each year.

For services sought outside the county the top listings were:
Medical, shopping, clothing, banking, dining, auto-repair, entertainment.

Why do you not obtain these services in Prowers County had these responses:
57.3%-too expensive/limited selection; 48.1%-the service is not available; 30.5%-other and 8.4%-it is convenient for me to go elsewhere.

What kinds of goods do you buy outside the County had these responses:
Clothing, groceries, home-improvement, vehicles, furniture, pet supplies, shoes, vehicles.

Why do you not obtain these goods in the county had these responses:
76.9%-Too Expensive/limited selection; 50.5%-items not found in the county; 19%-Other and 9.2%, convenient to shop elsewhere.

More attention will be paid to the current operating structure of PCDI, Prowers County Development Incorporated, which provided half the funding for the PUMA study. Segal said he came to some conclusions following a two hour morning meeting with the PCDI board.  He stated, “The board is open to a complete overhaul and change. We determined that for whatever reason, the business model of PCDI may be a little tired. We talked about focusing on singles instead of home runs. Economic development agencies sometimes try for the big win while they miss smaller opportunities. The board embraced a strategy of incremental development such as striving for singles as opposed to trying to attract a business that would employ a hundred people.”

Segal told the gathering that one final recommendation is open to the community-at-large. “You need to find a stronger collaborative spirit in the county for economic development. PCDI can work to become a glue that connects all the different towns and those efforts and can leverage that with Lamar’s new economic development coordinator.” He cautioned that the new structure should avoid a political approach while becoming a new and different organization, but should still interact with all the towns in the county.“

You are going to have to work with a lack of resources. You don’t have enough incentives, nor is there enough energy for every community to go it alone for development. There is not enough of those things that allow you to work with different systems or to have sufficient organization to work independently on these types of ventures.” On PCDI, Segal said PUMA and the organization will come up with a plan and hope that it will be a good fit. PCDI Vice-President, Aaron Leiker will work with Segal and visit with community leaders through the summer to develop a common direction for the organization. He concluded the meeting with a suggestion that to work, PCDI needs to be a blend of private and public effort and support, “Right now, the private sector is missing. The county, the city and surrounding towns are in, but we need to try to regenerate an interest from the business community to invest in PCDI and now rely on the county and the city for future financial support. That will be critical to make this work.”

By Russ Baldwin

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Filed Under: AgricultureCity of GranadaCity of HollyCity of LamarCity of WileyConsumer IssuesCountyEconomyEmploymentFeaturedHot TopicsTourismTransportationUtilities

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