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Priorities Revealed Via Chamber Survey

DALLAS -- Dallas Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Chelsea Pope has enough ideas for what the chamber could be doing to fill a lengthy "to do" list.

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Chelsea Pope

DALLAS -- Dallas Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Chelsea Pope has enough ideas for what the chamber could be doing to fill a lengthy "to do" list.

So much could be done, in fact, that in order to make the best use of staff time, the chamber's board of directors asked the business community for help prioritizing through a comprehensive business survey.

Pope said the board wanted to re-evaluate the slate of programs offered by the chamber, especially with an ever-tightening budget. The survey asked questions about the business climate in Dallas, the importance of the chamber's benefits, initiatives and the business community's confidence in the chamber's staff and board.

"This is the first year, really ever, that we have done a comprehensive survey," Pope said. "We wanted to hear from all businesses."

The survey results revealed what current programs were the most important to the business community and what should be developed in the future.

The chamber didn't just ask its membership to be part of the survey. Of the 104 who responded, 34 were nonmembers.

"We were really excited about the number of people who responded," Pope said. "The feedback we got was really good."

Pope said the chamber will use the results to build or change the programs it offers in the coming months.

"It really helps to focus our energy and effort," Pope said. "This is about what we should be doing."

Key points in the survey results:

* Perhaps not surprisingly, given the economy, no respondents rated the business climate in Dallas as "excellent," but nearly 75 percent rated it as "good" or "fair."

"I would have been surprised if anyone had rated it excellent," Pope said. "I was glad the majority of people rated it good or fair. That means we are hanging on."

* "Buy Local" was the top chamber initiative, with nearly 95 percent of respondents rating it as important. Pope said that is encouraging because it means businesses -- and residents -- are investing in the idea.

"The key with that is you have to do more than talk about it," she said. "You have to take action and citizens have to take a look at how they shop local."

* Political advocacy, as it relates to business, was voted the seventh most important initiative, representing a surprising growth in interest. Pope said as a result, the chamber will focus more on political education about bills and candidates, including inviting those running for office to speak in Dallas. However, Pope said the chamber likely won't endorse candidates.

* As a result of the survey, an online business center is under development that will provide businesses with a "one stop center" for learning about free or low-cost resources to help start a new business or expand an existing one. Pope said the chamber hopes to launch it later this year.

* The chamber will provide workshops focusing on the use of technology, such as developing websites, providing Wi-Fi to customers and use of social media to promote business and local tourism.

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