Survey says…

NKU students launch retail study
of downtown Carrollton shoppers

Results to be presented to public in December

By Helen E. McKinney
Contributing Writer

CARROLLTON, Ky. (November 2004) – Economic development and growth is vital to every downtown area, whether it be a heavily populated city or a small rural town. Economy helps the area survive and determines what types of businesses an area will maintain.

Carrolton Courthouse

Photo by Don Ward

Carrollton Courthouse

Carrollton has been chosen as the subject of a downtown retail market survey. The targeted site encompasses a 21-block area running from the Kentucky River east to Seventh Street, and from the Ohio River south to Sycamore Street.
A group of nine Northern Kentucky University students are studying “market trends, demographics, and what kind of businesses people think need to be downtown for the downtown area to survive,” said Sam Burgess, Carrollton’s Main Street Program Director.
These students are all senior marketing students under the direction of Dr. Aaron Levin, assistant professor of marketing at NKU. This is the second marketing research class they have taken, said Levin, and from October to December they will evaluate Carrollton’s downtown economic potential.
The city became a member of the Kentucky Heritage Council Main Street Program and Renaissance Kentucky in 1998. A market survey is required to be completed at some point in the membership.
The goal of Renaissance Kentucky is to assist communities with downtown revitalization efforts. It also seeks to unite communities and the resources needed to accomplish this goal. Renaissance Kentucky is designed to enhance and coordinate existing efforts.
There are a number of concerns on the revitalization of the historic downtown areas. It is such concerns that this class project will address. If a private individual were paid to complete this retail market survey, it would be costly, said Burgess. The city of Versailles, Ky., recently had this done for a price of $12,000, but Carrollton’s assessment will be done for free.
Students will conduct surveys with the general public and local business merchants. A random sampling of 350 attendees of the Two Rivers Tobacco Festival was taken between Sept. 30 and Oct. 2. Participants were asked to complete a written survey, and screener questions were included to ensure the participants lived in or near Carrollton, said Levin.
Kathy Watts, owner of The Craft Patch, is a downtown merchant who completed a survey for this project. Since the downtown area is a historic district, Watts thinks it could draw more consumers to complement the programs and facilities offered at Gen. Butler State Resort Park. She would like to see Carrollton draw “the kind of business you would find in tourist towns like Brown County, Ind.”
To begin this project, students designed a survey that decides whether the area should keep existing business in downtown Carrollton, how new businesses would fit in, and how to grow and improve the area, Levin said. Data will be compiled into a report, constructing data tables.
A Powerpoint presentation will be presented to Burgess and any interested parties in the community, such as the Carroll County Chamber of Commerce, the Carroll County Community Development Corp. and Main Street Program members. An electronic copy of the presentation will also be available for those who cannot attend the presentation.
Burgess said he hopes the survey will be useful in developing a business recruitment and retention plan to draw new business downtown. Interested businesses need to know before moving to the area if there will be a marketing niche they can fill. If the need is proven, they will be more confident in moving to the area, said Burgess.
There’s not enough variety to draw people downtown, said Watts. She said the types of businesses needed are food service, gift shops and antique stores.
A previous survey was completed one year before Carrollton became a member of Renaissance Kentucky. But it was not geared for what has since become the Renaissance area.
Levin said students will uncover reasons to explain how often people go to the downtown area, their reasoning for going, the types of stores they visit, what type of advertising draws people there and the overall image of the area.
“Anything that can encourage new businesses to open is a positive,” said Watts. She hopes enough interest will be generated to bring more economy to the downtown area.
“Carrollton chose us,” Levin said, “and we’re really excited.” He said his classes are known in the Marketing Department at NKU for doing this type of research for nonprofit organizations and businesses. His classes have completed the same type of project for other cities.
The most important thing students garner from this semester project is the opportunity to work with an actual client. This is a more effective learning tool than taking an exam or writing a research paper, he said.
Students learn first-hand the needs of their clients, while “hopefully solving the problem, or at least moving in that direction,” said Levin. They will come to understand the strengths and weaknesses of Carrollton in terms of Renaissance Kentucky.

• For more information on the survey, contact Burgess at (502) 732-5713.

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