Business leaders survey locals

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Lincoln Avenue is lit up for the holidays. It's a great time to go online to give downtown business leaders a piece of constructive criticism.

Leaders of Main Street Steamboat are hoping people will take eight minutes to visit yampavalley.info to fill out a survey meant to gauge their impressions of the city's downtown commercial district. It's all part of an effort to refocus and reinvigorate the area bounded by Yampa and Oak streets with Lincoln Avenue sandwiched between.

"We're after a deep, visceral feeling," Main Street branding committee chairman Towny Anderson said. "We want people to tell us the first image that comes to mind (when they think of downtown Steamboat). For some, it's Howelsen Hill. For some, it's Lyon's Drug. That's what we're trying to get at."

Main Street Steamboat is intent on making downtown more appealing to residents in part because the members of its board think visitors will follow residents to their favorite dining and shopping destinations.

"The research has really focused on the local," Andy Wirth said. "Locals influence how people outside of the valley see Steamboat."

Wirth is the marketing vice president for the Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp. His company has learned through surveys that the experiences its guests find in downtown Steamboat, three miles from the ski lifts, have a direct influence on their desire to return for a vacation in the future.

Main Street President Tom Ptach thinks the patronage of residents is critical to maintaining a healthy downtown where traditional independent retailers can still thrive.

The survey is being professionally managed by Boulder consulting firm RRC Associates. It's the same firm that does the SKI Magazine readers' preference survey about the top ski areas in the country. The ultimate goal is to use the results of the survey to create a branding statement that will clarify "main street's" position in the market, Anderson said. The branding process is expected to be complete this summer.

The survey asks participants to rate qualities such as dining, customer service and shopping opportunities on a sliding scale from bad to great. But it also provides the opportunity for more subjective input.

For example, the survey asks people to complete the sentence: "I go to downtown Steamboat for ..." and allows them to type their answer into a box.

Some participants will be asked to respond to the question: "What is the primary reason that you don't go to the downtown Steamboat Springs area as frequently as you used to? Are there any other reasons why you go downtown less often?"

Of course, the survey also asks participants what they like most about Steamboat's historic commercial district.

-- To reach Tom Ross call 871-4205

or e-mail tross@steamboatpilot.com

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