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Business survey takes a regional approach
by Sarah Cooper
Jun 03, 2010 | 769 views | 0 0 comments | 7 7 recommendations | email to a friend | print
RENO — “Anemic.” “Depressed.” “Bleak.” “In Crisis.”

These are only some of the words regional business leaders used to describe the economy in the Greater Reno-Tahoe Economic Outlook business survey.

The survey, conducted by the Center for Regional Studies at the University of Nevada, Reno, showed mixed results for businesses across northern Nevada with many saying economic conditions are poor but more people saying this year that they are optimistic.

In the 2009 survey, nearly one-third of respondents (31 percent) indicated they expected overall economic conditions in the Reno-Tahoe area to improve in the next 12 months, up from 19 percent in 2008 who anticipated improvement.

However, in the same breath, 52 percent of business owners characterized the overall economic conditions in northern Nevada as poor. About 33 percent said the economic conditions were fair.

These and many other regional answers are contained in the 38-page survey, compiled and released in January. The UNR center plans to do another mid-year survey in July to once again take the pulse of regional business.

“We want to see the community benefit and see the community be stronger,” said Brian Bonnenfant, project manager for the UNR Center for Regional Studies.

With a legislative session on the new year’s horizon and businesses looking to do battle with an ever-raging economy, Bonnenfant believes the survey answers may be more important than ever.

“Primary data collection is really lacking in this area,” he said.

The study itself has gone through a new birth in the past year, changing not only how often the survey is conducted, but also who is conducting it.

According to Bonnenfant, the survey was originally designed jointly by the Economic Development Authority of Western Nevada (EDAWN), the Reno Sparks Chamber of Commerce, InfoSearch International and The Glenn Group.

In 2009, the sponsorship of the survey shifted to the Center for Regional Studies at the University of Nevada’s College of Business in partnership with InfoSearch. It has been conducted since 2004.

The survey was previously released at the Reno Sparks Chamber of Commerce and EDAWN’s Directions Business Conference.

However, after 2008, with dwindling staff and economic challenges of their own, the entities relinquished the survey and the UNR center took over responsibility.

“We jumped on it in December and conducted and released it in January,” Bonnenfant said.

The survey took in the answers of more than 500 senior-level business leaders from across northern Nevada. The original e-mail asking for survey responses was sent to 1,990 people, who were e-mail blasted through their respective chambers of commerce.

“We keep the information very confidential,” Bonnenfant said of convincing area chambers of commerce and business groups to give up their memberships e-mails. “We know these people and they know us. They know we house a lot of very confidential databases … we have many years of not abusing them.”

The Sparks Chamber of Commerce along with EDAWN, Nevada Business Connections, UNR Summit economic attendees and city and county government department heads all submitted their e-mail lists to glean survey takers.

The survey costs little to produce: Data collection and processing is handled by InfoSearch at no cost and the UNR Center expends only staff time to generate questions and populate survey respondent lists.

“It’s like herding cats,” Bonnenfant said of putting the survey together. “It’s a lot of work.”

For the full survey, visit http://centerforregionalstudies.org/documents/Econ-Outlook-Final.pdf.
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