January 22, 2012
By PAUL COLLINS - Bulletin Staff Writer
A telephone survey will be conducted in February and March as part of the Shop Local MHC Initiative.
The initiative aims to retain in this community some of the estimated millions of dollars being spent out of town or on the Internet for goods and services, said Laura Bowles, executive director of Martinsville Uptown.
The message is that each person has the power to make a difference in the local economy and every dollar matters, Bowles said.
The Martinsville-Henry County Economic Development Corp. and the Martinsville-Henry County Chamber of Commerce are joining Martinsville Uptown in the initiative.
The Harvest Foundation is funding $249,227 over three years for the initiative.
Bowles said the initiative will have a three-pronged approach.
One prong is a telephone survey of 1,000 individuals and 200 businesses that will be conducted in February and March.
The survey, which will be conducted by the research firm MarketWise, will take about 10 minutes and aims to find out what products and services local people and businesses are buying out of town; the various reasons why, including if the product isn’t available locally; and “What would we need here for you to spend some of that money (locally)?” Bowles said.
The responses will be used to help identify types of new businesses that could be successful based on market demand, Bowles said, adding that information that would benefit local entrepreneurs.
The EDC will develop two “generic” business plans each year for three years, for a total of six types of businesses that have the greatest potential for success, Bowles said.
An entrepreneur would then be responsible for personalizing the generic business plan for his or her own company and selecting a site to open shop, Bowles said.
She added that the EDC offers many services to help potential businesses, including helping develop a business plan, marketing, website development and help seeking financing.
Bowles said the data compiled from the phone survey also could benefit existing businesses, “and we will be happy to share” it with any business.
“The whole goal is to try to have more products available” locally, she said.
The second prong of the initiative is the development of a website, shoplocalmhc.com, which is scheduled to “go live” in March 2013, Bowles said.
It will take that long because information will be gathered on 3,000 local businesses.
The following information will be placed on the website for free for each business: name of business, products or services offered, location, hours of operation, phone number or website, she said.
“We’re trying to establish product categories now so we can set up a directory” on the website, she said.
Businesses also will have the option of selling products online through the website. The price structure for that has not been determined, Bowles said.
The third prong is doing a mass marketing campaign, including billboards that are starting to go up now, she said.
After the website is in operation, newspaper advertising and more billboard advertising will be done, she added.
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