PENDLETON — Call it sticky notes and starters ... or perhaps opinions and hors d’ouvres.
Either way, dozens of Pendleton business owners met with town officials Thursday at the Pendleton Business Report, an event offering a chance at anonymous criticism, as well as praise.
Upon entering Town Hall, business owners were given a stack of sticky notes on which they could write and post their answers to prompts about ways to improve communication and market the town. The event also offered a chance to meet town officials and other business people.
“The question we are asking is, "How can we help local businesses be helped and be successful,” said Pendleton Town Council President Bob Jones. “Things people like and things they don’t like — we want the good and bad.”
By offering prompts and an anonymous way to comment, Jones said he hoped business owners could be honest about how they feel about the town’s efforts to bring in new business and improve the town. The Town Council will compile the notes and look at ways to address concerns.
“Business brings business; we are always looking for things we can encourage,” Jones said.
Jack Wilson, president of Solutions4ebiz, said the event was a great way to hear from business leaders as well as meet other community leaders.
“It’s always positive when you get people together and talk,” he said.
For his part, Wilson argued the town could do a better job at proactively promoting the town to outsiders. But most important, he said, the town needs to develop an identity.
“Biggest thing I see is we need a clear vision of what we will be in 20 years,” he said.
Jerry Burmeister, owner of Old Towne Antiques, said he hopes the town can keep it’s “historical flavor,” as new development continues.
“It’s important to keep the historic district historic,” he said. “There’s not many in the state.”
Parking was also a major concern.
“All the time people come into the shop and say there’s nowhere to park,” he said of his downtown business.
For Connie Rector, owner of Gaia Natural Foods, the event was a good start, but business and town leaders need to meet more often.
Her solution is a community where new business owners feel comfortable meeting with longtime residents and owners like herself to get direction.
Likewise, building owners should be more willing to offer new businesses breaks on rent while they try to get off their feet.
“That’s how I got my start; they need to work with people and get young and new business in town,” she said.