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UNR students to conduct survey

by Sheila Gardner

If you receive a phone call from a University of Nevada, Reno student in the next two weeks, please don’t hang up.

The students, under the direction of UNR’s Nevada Small Business Development Center, will be surveying 400 Douglas County residents beginning Monday to determine where they shop.

The survey is an update of a 1990 report, known as the “retail leakage survey,” which indicated that 70 percent of Douglas County residents did their shopping out of the county, taking their sales tax revenue with them.

The new survey was commissioned by Douglas County commissioners.

Kathy Halbardier, a Carson Valley resident and director and management consultant for the NSBDC, said the students would be calling for two weeks or as long as it takes to reach a random sampling of 400 residents.

“It depends on the availability of people at home,” Halbardier said. “There are roughly 43 questions on the survey. Some of them can be answered really quickly and a few are more detailed.”

The students have been trained in telemarketing and are prepared for rejection from residents weary of slick sales presentations that often intrude in the dinner hour or early evening.

“I think what will really help us is the students’ planned introduction which emphasizes that the university is involved and that the results of the survey will benefit them and the university. We’re not selling anything and nobody is making a profit,” she said.

n $18,000 pricetag. County Manager Dan Holler said county commissioners contracted with UNR professor Tom Harris to conduct the survey at a cost of approximately $18,000. That includes the leakage study and a metropolitan business activity report.

“There are two components to this,” Holler said, “the survey and the MBA. The business activity report looks at traffic patterns, income – six different factors which indicate the potential for business activity.”

Holler said the results are valuable marketing tools for the county and organizations such as the Carson Valley Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Authority to answer inquiries about the area.

“This does a couple of things for us,” he said. “One is in marketing. It helps the chamber and real estate activities. It also helps in redevelopment when we are looking at retail activity. The information gives the commissioners a benchmark to look at where we are today compared to 1990. It also helps us to look at the future.

“The other component is the type of retail people desire to see. You can target recruitment areas. If nobody has a desire for say widgets, you do not go out and get a widget factory.”

Harris is the director of UNR’s Center for Economic Development and a professor in applied economics and statistics.

“It works well for us,” said Winnie Dowling, assistant director of the Nevada Small Business Development Center. “Tom provides the speciality areas and we do a lot of the legwork for him, help with the interpretation and make sure the project comes to completion.”

Students will call residents in every neighborhood of Douglas County – the Valley and the Lake – to compile the random survey. If you are not called, but would like to add your input, Halbardier said to contact her at the Carson Valley Chamber of Commerce where she is available two days a week.

“We would be happy to share that information with Tom as ad hoc comments,” Halbardier said. “We want to get as much input as we can.”

n No predictions. Holler said he couldn’t predict what the leakage study will show.

“We have the knowledge that people are shopping out of the county. The question is how much. What is our potential for sales tax revenue and taxable sales business in Douglas County?

“The survey will also answer why people don’t shop here, not just because they don’t have the opportunity. Is parking a problem in Minden and Gardnerville? Is customer service an issue? In some of the smaller stores, I think customer service is a plus and that’s why people continue to shop there even if prices are higher,” Holler said.

Holler said he hopes results will be available to the board in January.

“I’m looking forward to the results,” Holler said. “I’m also pleased about the opportunity to develop a relationship between Douglas County and University of Nevada, Reno and the Small Business Development Center. The resources of the university are a benefit to the county.”

For information about the survey, Halbardier can be reached at the Carson Valley Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Authority at 782-8144.

The Record-Courier E-mail: rc@tahoe.com

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