By Valliant Corley
Pilot staff writer
GOLD BEACH It isn't easy being in business in Curry County, but a new survey indicates business owners would rather be in business here than anywhere else.
"The majority of businesses are here because of the quality of life," said Susan Brown, director of Curry County Economic and Community Development. "Since they like it here, they make it work. Making it work takes a lot of work."
Brown recently completed a Curry County business retention and expansion survey and has begun distributing it to businesses and people who want to be in business in Curry County. So far she has distributed copies to chambers of commerce in Brookings, Gold Beach and Port Orford.
"One of our purposes is to find out how we can help local businesses if they want to expand," she said.
That might include putting together specialized training to help increase skills of potential employees.
"We have a lot of businesses interested in expanding, but they need help in financing," she said. "That's the main purpose of the survey how can we help them meet their goals."
The project is sponsored by the county Economic and Community Development Department and the Curry County Board of Commissioners. It is supported by the local chambers of commerce, area businesses and involved citizens.
"We're starting on the Curry County Economic Plan," Brown said. "This is an important aspect of this. Businesses are an important aspect of that plan."
Brown said the county will start on the economic plan within the next six to nine months.
"When we get basic plans, we'll go out for the overall plan. Then we will go out to community members," she said. "We want to know where the community wants to go."
The survey first looks at Curry County overall, then it takes a look at businesses and their needs in each area of the county.
"The last section is a comparison of the three cities," Brown said. "It's interesting to see the differences on how the three cities look at business."
Brookings had the highest percentage of businesses reporting they are a service business with 29.8 percent, followed by Port Orford 20.7 percent and Gold Beach 7.5 percent.
More of the Gold Beach businesses, 17.5 percent, reported they run restaurants, while 8.5 percent of those in Brookings reported being restaurants and 3.4 percent of those in Port Orford.
Gold Beach area businesses reported a higher satisfaction with their current employees than Brookings and Port Orford businesses, with 45.5 percent of the Gold Beach businesses reporting no problems with their current work force.
Businesses in all three cities reported work maturity as their biggest problem with employees.
In Brookings, 34.8 percent reported no problems with current workers, and businesses in Port Orford reported no problems with 40.9 percent of their workers.
In Port Orford, 28.6 percent of the businesses said competition was a top challenge facing their businesses, while that was listed by 22.4 percent of those in Brookings and 14.3 percent of Gold Beach businesses.
In Brookings, 57.1 percent said the economy was a top challenge, compared to 54.8 percent in Gold Beach and 42.9 percent in Port Orford.
The work force was listed as a top challenge by 53.1 percent of Brookings businesses, compared to 40.5 percent of those in Gold Beach and 35.7 percent in Port Orford.
In Brookings, 75.5 percent listed a top reason for locating or keeping their business in Curry County as quality of life, 68.3 percent of Gold Beach businesses listed quality of life, while only 55.2 percent in Port Orford agreed.
Brown said most of those responding expect business to increase over the next three years.
"They're optimistic," she said. "Most say the cost of doing business in Curry County is acceptable.
"Transportation is one of the biggest issues," Brown said. "Zoning and land use facilities are issues. Economic development needs to be a better service."
She said those answering the survey overall thought shopping locally was average to poor.
"But it wasn't like very poor," she said. "Overall, they were happy with recreation and police protection."
Brown said businesses are interested in better Internet services.
"A lot of businesses, the owners themselves, were interested in learning to use the Internet," she said.
Brown said there are many businesses in Curry County now using the Internet for their business and are doing well.
"We have a business online," she said of herself and her husband. "We get orders from New York and all over. Stuff I'm selling, it's cheaper to get in New York because of the cost of transportation."
But she said her items are selling well there.
"A gentleman is selling driftwood online," Brown said. "He was selling it all over the place."
The survey was developed and distributed at no cost to the community. Brown's department sent 618 surveys containing 50 questions covering five areas of concern to local businesses in April. The survey is a 10-page questionnaire and enclosed was a self-addressed stamped return envelope. There was a 19.7 percent return rate from 122 residents covering Brookings, Gold Beach and Port Orford.
Of those returning the survey, 84.5 percent of the businesses stated that they began their operations in Curry County, with the rest relocating their businesses to the region.
Businesses were optimistic about the future, with 81.7 percent expecting an increase in sales or services over the next three years.
Respondents were asked to identify the top three reasons that they located or are keeping their businesses in Curry County. The majority said they enjoy the quality of life, with location coming in second.
Businesses were asked what their immediate needs or concerns are that could be addressed by local government or private entities.
The most frequent concerns were issues dealing with city and county government. Respondents do not feel the government is supportive of local business. Zoning and planning fees are expensive, slow to process requests and governments do not show consistency with decision making concerning zoning and planning.
Many felt fee structures and tax breaks would be incentives for new and existing business.
The second largest concerns of local business were issues related to affordability of housing and cost of living. Many businesses were concerned about the tourism trade and are interested in promoting visitor exposure.
The majority of respondents felt the cost of doing business in Curry County is acceptable, with the exception of building costs, health care and transportation.
The majority said they felt recreation in Curry County is excellent and they felt electrical services street cleaning, fire protection and police protection are good.
Roads, water and sewer, propane services, telecom services, high speed Internet, school systems, child care services, restaurants, professional services, cultural activities, business services, motel services, senior services and zoning and land use were rated average.
The business responders rated public transportation, air service, health care, shopping, conference facilities and economic development as lacking.
Copies of the survey may be obtained through the Curry County Economic and Community Development office.