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Business survey indicates change desired at city hall

by Mark Vasto
Landmark reporter

Two-sided in nature, feedback pertains to both those giving it and receiving it. Essential for those willing to have honest and open relationships, it's a word that many tend to equate with criticism and subsequently avoid.

One week after releasing a business outreach and retention survey, the Platte City Chamber of Commerce and Economic Development Council (EDC) is hoping its feedback will be a catalyst for change in their community.

The survey, conducted with 25 of the city's estimated 300 businesses, offers evaluation on city and county services, the area's workforce, perceived barriers to growth and outlines the strengths and weaknesses of conducting business in the area.

The survey showed that location and accessibility were viewed as Platte City's strong suit (56 percent of those responding), followed by the city's "small town atmosphere/people" (44 percent).

Conversely, it pointed to city hall's "attitude toward business/developers" as its biggest weakness (24 percent), followed by growth and planning (16 percent) and a disloyal "bedroom community" (16 percent).

The EDC, which presented the results at last month's chamber of commerce meeting, said the survey was a good representation of the local business community.

"We felt that number (25) was a good representation of the business community," explained Karen Wagoner, director of the EDC. She said that the businesses were "sprinkled throughout the city…old, new, big and little.”

Wagoner said that entities being addressed in the report were alerted before the meeting. She said that Mayor Dave Brooks and Platte City Administrator Keith Moody were "very open to addressing the issue" and have plans to speak to the chamber in future months.

"I understand the rationale behind the survey and I can appreciate that," Moody told The Landmark. "Platte City conducts a survey of their citizens as well, every two years.”

While Moody didn't dispute the results or the methodology, he did express a few reservations about using it as an accurate reflection of the city's performance.

"I don't disagree with the survey, but you really need to compare yourself to a benchmark," Moody said. "It's relative. You have to consider how citizens tend to look at services. Some services are shown in a better light. Others…not so better a light.”

When asked if he thought city hall was one such institution, Moody replied: "I think you can draw that conclusion.”

Moody didn't debate whether or not the characterization was a fair one.

"Well…it's the reality. Most of the people who come to city hall tend to have a problem. We do what we can, but the rules and the codes are set by the citizens. The aldermen are the elected citizens.”

Mayor Brooks did not return phone calls for this article.

Mayoral candidate Gary Brown, who will challenge Brooks in the April election, characterized the results as being "nothing new.”

"We've been hearing that for a long time and it hasn't changed," Brown said. "I think those business people have a right to express those feelings and tell us what they see. Things need to change.”

Brown said he envisioned bringing more local businessmen to city meetings and finding out how the city could best serve them.

"I've heard from businessmen telling me different things that we could've done to help out a business here and there. But we don't do that, we turn a cold shoulder.”

The EDC, it should be noted, received its share of feedback from the survey. Only one business listed the chamber of commerce as a perceived strength for the area, and general comments from respondents mentioned the need for the chamber/EDC to recruit more businesses, improve communication and market the community better.

Wagoner said that the project's next and final step was to sit down with the entities singled out and develop an action plan with them.

"Sometimes it's as simple as communication.”

Brown agreed.

"The number one thing is communication, and that also means you've got to listen to them. Communication is a two-way street.”

Just like feedback.


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