After meeting 370 business owners face-to-face last winter and spring, Southern Oregon Regional Economic Development Inc. is ready to do it again.
The agency's outreach initiative known as PROSPER — for positive, results-oriented and sustainable partnership for enterprise resilience — will pick the minds of executives and managers to find out what greases the skids and what gums up the works.
There were no earth-shattering discoveries, Business Development Manager Michael Smith said. But it was evident the region's economy still is staggering from the lingering effects of the Great Recession.
"Things are not quite as robust as they might have been 10 years ago," Smith said. "Everybody had equity in houses then, and businesses were booming and flush with cash. Because it was a strong economy, they had the ability, one way or another, to get access to cash. Now, they don't have the equity and collateral, so they don't have quite as much clout with banks as they used to."
SOREDI hopes to substantially increase its contacts each year.
Smith said the rise of Rogue Nexus E-Business Consortium, an organization pulling together disparate elements of the electronic commerce sector, has led SOREDI to take a closer look this time around.
"We've targeted the e-business sector in a collaborative effort between our business retention and recruitment committee and the Rogue Nexus," Smith said.
In Josephine County, the chamber of commerce will interview businesses during its own triennial survey.
The recurrent themes in the first round often centered around access to capital and air connections.
"The business climate — access to capital and regulatory issues — continue to be something companies talk about," Smith said. "If it didn't cost as much to begin something or land-use laws weren't so onerous, business would be moving forward. But it's one of those issues that will never get completely solved."
While air travel frequently came up, Smith said that is a matter of perception.
"It's a chicken-and-egg thing," he said. "We'd all like to magically wave the wand and have a flight on our time frame with exactly the seat we want. It's not realistic in today's world. When someone is used to flying out of San Francisco or Los Angeles, there are lots of flights. You're not going to have those kind of options here. As e-commerce conversion builds, more and more people will be commuting back and forth between San Francisco and Los Angeles. That will build gradually — it's not going to be a matter of flicking the switch and it happens."
Smith said SOREDI hopes to complete the task by May so it can present its findings during its June annual meeting.
If your business hasn't been contacted and you want to be part of the project, call Colleen Padilla at 541-773-8946 or Tom Fischer at 541-944-8174.
Reach reporter Greg Stiles at 541-776-4463 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.