Going About Your Business

By Daniel Kahl*, CEDIK Associate Director

Communities are in a relationship with local business

Experience tells us that relationships demand attention. Relationships require the investment of time, energy and attention to maintain effective communication and trust. The risk is, of course, that if we stop investing in relationships, the relationship will suffer and could even end completely.

Communities are in a relationship with local businesses. Without on-going communication, trust building, and concern for the well-being of those businesses, the business/community relationship can begin to break down.  When the relationship ends, the business may just begin to search for a more engaged community.

Downtown Cynthiana, Kentucky. Photo credit: Sarah Bowker, December 2019.

What do we learn by listening?

The Community and Economic Development Initiative of Kentucky (CEDIK) at the University of Kentucky has been listening to business needs. Across Kentucky, surveys and listening forums are telling us that small businesses need community support. In a recent report published by CEDIK (Kahl, Fawcett, et.al. 2019)  73% of store representatives identified finding and retaining employees as one of their greatest business challenges. Other challenges raised include: taxes, training employees, and keeping up with rules, codes, and policies. While the above study was a small sampling, a statewide assessment of community issues hosted by University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension (Statewide Community Needs Assessment, 2019) noted business support and workforce development as some of the most pressing issues in counties across Kentucky.

What can a community do to improve the local business environment?

While every business will have unique needs, businesses in a community often share common concerns that the community can address. The Business Retention and Expansion (BR&E) program offered through CEDIK is one way to document business needs and keep business and community relationships on track. The BR&E program is designed for local government, economic development offices, or Chambers of Commerce. The program is designed to facilitate a listening process that can bring the interests of local business into clear focus. By listening to the concerns of the local businesses, leadership can mobilize resources and energy to respond to local business priorities.

Businesses frequently support local efforts, and the BR&E program helps communities find ways to reciprocate investment in the relationship. For a community, “going about your business” means strengthening the economic environment and relationships with local businesses. Visit the CEDIK website for more information on services to improve your economic environment, including the BR&E program.

Referenced work:

Kahl, D., Fawcett, K., Koo, J., Namkoong, K., and Rossi, J. (2019). Survey of SNAP Food Providers in Eight Kentucky Counties: Business Needs and Community Connections. Available online at:  http://cedik.ca.uky.edu/files/business_needs_community_connections_pse.pdf

Kentucky Cooperative Extension Community Assessment, Statewide Report (2019). https://extension.ca.uky.edu/files/kentucky_extension_community_assessment_2019.pdf

*Daniel Kahl is the Associate Director of CEDIK and an Assistant Professor in Community and Leadership Development at the University of Kentucky.

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