Asking your stakeholders what they think of you can be a risky business, but it is necessary every few years. As you may know, Downtown Rhinelander Inc. decided it was time to ask. Our survey was intended for our Business Investment District (BID) members, downtown business owners, board members, committee members and city partners. The outcome of our Stakeholders Survey has been exciting. The data contains affirmation of our current operation. It also included new ideas and many thoughts about what we can do to become a stronger downtown and thus a stronger Rhinelander area.
The objectives of the survey are listed below. Following the objectives, which are in bold type, I have used data or a summary of the data to illustrate the findings.
1. To find out what the stakeholders think of DRI’s priorities and actions. We heard from our stakeholders that we should “continue on the path DRI is on.”
2. To understand if we have the right balance of events, business recruitment and beautification to meet the needs of the downtown customers and businesses. That the balance of events, business recruitment and beautification should be focused on: streetscape, facades, events and business recruitment/retention, in that order.
3. To get more people involved in volunteering for DRI. They know what they want in order to volunteer. “[I want] respect, courtesy, food, beverage, fun, flexible scheduling, short term commitment, good leadership with clear instructions.”
4. To know if we are collaborating with the right partners. The participants listed many community partners but also had much more to say about collaborating with each other. “[Need to begin] working to improve the sense of cohesion and cooperation between business owners.” “Have you thought about just creating a focus group of business owners? Where they might not have the time to devote to a board, but getting them together not to talk at them but have them talk to you? What do they need, what would they like to see? What ideas do they have for improvement?”
5. To identify things we need to do to be more successful as an advocate for downtown businesses. According to the data, DRI needs to step up its communication, marketing and advertising in order to be an advocate for downtown. This was best expressed by this comment: “Toot your horn a little bit more, great things are happening with downtown and if you don’t brag about it, no one else will.”
6. To identify directions and help us make decisions with our resources for the next three years. Direction for our organization was much the same as in objective two. The respondents said they wanted more attention to streetscape/green space, events, and business recruitment/retention. The comments included, “The biggest challenge to our downtown is aesthetic improvements.” “I believe the special events make it fun for people to come [downtown].” “I really believe that we need to encourage more locally owned and operated businesses; they have a much greater stake in the community and the health of our downtown AND they are what makes/keeps our downtown unique from others.”
The data from the survey is being discussed in the DRI committees and at the board level. We will take our time to digest these data and develop a new set of goals and action steps.
Our next public meeting is Dec. 4 from 5:30-7:30 p.m. at the Curran Professional Park meeting room. We invite all of the community members to join us and offer their ideas about Downtown Rhinelander and our new goal areas.
Downtown Rhinelander is our focus, but we see ourselves as the center of a great area of shopping, entertainment, service, health care, education and a wonderful place to live. All the parts of our community need to be strong. Please help us by participating in our reinvention. For more information call (715) 362-7374.