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Survey takes read on climate of downtown Hagerstown businesses

More than 300 business owners and those with an interest in the area received the eight-page questionnaire by email or the postal service in late April

July 29, 2013|By HOLLY SHOK | holly.shok@herald-mail.com



The findings of a city survey aimed at determining the current business climate of downtown Hagerstown will be released by the end of August, according to the official who spearheaded the project.

Downtown Manager Andrew Sargent said more than 300 downtown business owners and those with an interest in the area, including organizations such as the Hagerstown-Washington County Convention and Visitors Bureau and the Hagerstown-Washington County Chamber of Commerce, received the eight-page questionnaire by email or the postal service in late April. 

By July 24, 70 responses had been submitted, Sargent said.

The survey period ends Tuesday.

“It’s one of the ways we’re gathering information about what the businesses who are here see as our opportunities, and our challenges ... what they like, what they don’t like, what they want to see more of and things of that nature,” Sargent said last week.

The 34-question survey has multiple-choice and short-answer questions regarding the City Center’s business climate, including: 

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  • What community events have increased your sales and/or positively impacted your business and how? 
  • What other businesses would you like to see locate in the downtown?
  • What products or services do you currently purchase for your business outside of the city of Hagerstown/Washington County that you would consider buying locally if known suppliers were available? 

Sargent said one trend coming across on the completed surveys is “perceived parking challenges” downtown, where he said there are roughly 350 to 400 businesses.

“Being able to identify the problems succinctly will be helpful to us ...” he said.

Submitted surveys show a satisfaction in the size of parcels, said Sargent, who declined to share other initial findings. A report will be made public by the end of August, he said.

“We’re listening, and we’re trying to make sure that everyone’s voice is heard, and this is an official way to do it in addition to going out and talking to the businesses,” Sargent said.

Downtown redevelopment has been an ongoing issue for the city.

Hagerstown officials recently have reached out for expertise to economic development officials in Frederick, Md., and York, Pa., which Sargent said is like a demographic twin to Hagerstown.

“You learn a lot when you look outside your four walls,” Sargent said. “Our challenges are not unique.”

The downtown climate recently has been “surprisingly vibrant,” Sargent said.

There have been 14 grand openings and one anniversary celebration in the City Center this year, he said.

But there have been closures, too.

Spin, a restaurant and nightclub at 43 S. Potomac St., The Brickyard Grill, a restaurant at 15 W. Washington St., and Bikle’s Ski Shop at 7 N. Potomac St. are among several businesses since late 2012 that closed or announced they were closing, according to The Herald-Mail’s archives.

Jill Estavillo, city economic development manager, said the city is looking forward to presenting the results after the data is assembled.

“It is important to be informed of the needs and concerns of businesses so as to best manage our programs and services,” Estavillo said in an email. “As we work (to) make change in our City Center, this data will provide a baseline from which to measure our results.”

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