The Homer Economic Development Advisory Commission has completed a survey of Homer businesses. The Commission wanted to know what were the largest issues facing small businesses and to see if the city can help.
The idea is that by focusing on retaining established business in the community rather than solely focusing on attracting new ones, there will be larger growth in the private sector. In turn, the city would see a larger economic boost.
According to the 112 respondents, the largest issue they face is the labor market. About 80 percent of businesses reported a shortage of workers in Homer, and they say the small labor pool makes it difficult to find workers with the proper skill set.
On the positive side, half of the respondents reported an increase in sales and customers, but only 40 percent said that translated into more profits.
“First thing from my mind is just the increase of doing business,” Commission Chairwoman Karin Marks said of the comparison.
Marks explained that unfortunately not enough businesses responded to make those stats statistically significant, or reflective of the entire business community, but she did say the survey’s results are a window into Homer’s business climate.
Marks said the results should be enough for the city to work with and the Commission plans to present their findings to the Homer City Council.
“At the presentation we’re going to be showing some of the red flag items besides work force education for instance, some of the ordinance[s] that might be of interest for people to have changed, but we wanted then [to] follow through and have some action plans,” she explained.
Marks notes that the city’s sign ordnance and some zoning codes were the most apparent issues brought up in the survey that the city has control over, but solving other issues may be a bit more difficult.
“Having a good work ethic, that was something that was brought up, and you know how do you move forward? That might take a lot more scratching of the heads,” Marks said.
The Commission will suggest next steps for the city where it can, but there are also other issues that are under borough or state control. Marks said the city may still be able to help those business owners by educating them about who regulates or controls those aspects of their businesses and connecting them with organizations that may be able to help.
The Commission will present its findings at the council’s next regular meeting on Jan. 22.