Most Baraboo merchants say business is good, but there’s room for improvement.
In April, volunteers conducted a Business Walk, surveying more than 200 merchants to gauge the pulse of local commerce. Now that the results are in, business leaders are discussing how to act on them.
“We want to see whether there are practical, pragmatic solutions,” said Andy Bingle, who chairs the Baraboo Economic Development Commission's Business Walk committee.
Ninety-one percent of respondents said business is somewhere between fair and great. They listed friendly customers, Baraboo’s location and support from local business groups as the best things about doing business here.
Business owners listed a lack of parking, along with poor road design and conditions, as a top obstacle. Better marketing of Baraboo in the Wisconsin Dells and Madison markets is needed, as are a more diverse base of businesses, a new hotel and affordable housing.
The Business Walk committee discussed the results last week, with another of the commission's committees set to discuss Wednesday how the results might be applied to the city’s study of its east side commercial corridor.
Bingle said the goal is to pinpoint trends affecting businesses, and enact policies that remove roadblocks. For example, some merchants said city red tape makes it difficult to place signs and expand businesses.
“This is local government taking steps to listen to businesses and find out what they need most,” Bingle said.
The survey was supported by partners including the city, village of West Baraboo, Baraboo Area Chamber of Commerce, Downtown Baraboo Inc., Madison Region Economic Partnership and Workforce Development Board of South Central Wisconsin.
Bingle hopes to see the Business Walk committee formulate four or five suggestions to go before the full board of the local economic development group, which would then present recommendations to the Common Council.
“Baraboo is in it for the long haul,” Bingle said. “I feel like we have some good momentum going forward.”
Follow Ben Bromley on Twitter @ben_bromley