Wilton’s Economic Development Commission (EDC) has become revitalized with new members and a mandate from the Board of Selectmen to move forward on their efforts. One of the first initiatives that they have undertaken, being overseen by EDC vice chair Vivian Lee-Shiue, is to assess how several key audiences within Wilton see the town. This analytical look at what businesses, realtors, brokers and residents think about the town will then be used to implement the second initiative, to shape a marketing and branding effort.

As part of the analytic phase, the EDC has reached out to commercial brokers who represent properties in town, “…to see their stand and how they view the Town of Wilton, what they know about businesses are possibly interested in coming in and out [of the area] and any recommendations that they have relative to people who don’t sign leases,” says Lee-Shiue.

EDC members have also been speaking with residential realtors, asking them to describe what they’re hearing from clients looking to move into Wilton or to leave.  “Of the deals you’ve done this year, why did people choose Wilton? And for the people that left Wilton, what was the rationale behind leaving?” Lee-Shiue adds, noting that they also plan on talking with residents at some point as well.

Earlier this month they introduced the largest aspect of this analytical stage so far—an online survey as a tool for Wilton-based businesses of all sizes to take and give feedback about what it’s like to do business here.

“This survey is to understand what business owners believe are Wilton’s assets, or not, and different ways the town can promote the local businesses, both from the standpoint of sustaining them, and potentially attracting businesses that would stay in town. We need to understand what it was that drew business owners to Wilton,” says Lee-Shiue.

The time period of opportunity for businesses to take part and have their opinions heard is coming to end this Friday, May 20. Commission members are making one final push to get as many responses as possible, and they’re encouraging any Wilton-based business to complete the survey. Some of the businesses, such as home-based businesses that are not really dependent on Wilton infrastructure, may not have as much direct feedback for the Commission as some of the businesses that occupy brick-and-mortar space in town. However, anyone is welcome to respond.

“The objective of this survey is to summarize where we’re seeing trends,” says Lee-Shiue. “If, let’s say, multiple businesses say, ‘We think some zoning regulations have to be changed,’ and we’re seeing it consistently, then we want to summarize those trends and bring that back to the various commissions that need to know about them

Up until now, they’ve pursued both larger corporate businesses like ASML and the Louis Dreyfus Company, as well as smaller scale retailers. Some of those larger companies may not have been as accessible, says Lee-Shiue, although that hasn’t stopped the EDC from trying to get as complete a picture as possible.

“We are trying to tackle them by getting interviews either with them or their brokers, their landlords or commercial brokers that represent them. So, understanding that we may not have a way to get into those businesses, or they might not be willing to talk to us, we are trying to get some anecdotal information from the various brokers.

In their initial budget request to the Board of Selectmen earlier this year, the Commission had discussed using paid consultants to help execute both the analytic and marketing initiatives. However, they’ve pared back significantly on their budget. Fortunately, several town residents with professional expertise in the areas of the commission’s interest have stepped forward to lend a hand. Lee-Shiue proudly says, “For this project there are no paid consultants being used.”

“One Wilton resident who specializes in analytics has volunteered to help co-manage this survey effort. He’s not a commissioner on the EDC but he has the skill set and is very interested in helping out the town. So he brings the analytic expertise,” she explains adding that as a member of the Economic Development Commission, she can helps coordinate communication and logistics with the first selectman’s office and the town, when needed.

There are other residents who are volunteering with the survey efforts, and others who are volunteering with mapping out marketing of the town. “Tapping into people in town that have the skills and expertise to do that has a benefit to us in that the people that we’ve talked to really understand the town, as opposed to being an unaffiliated company,” Lee-Shiue says.

The Chamber of Commerce has been working in concert with the EDC on this, sending the survey to its members and posting the survey link on social media. The EDC is hoping that businesses will respond and complete the survey before the final deadline of this Friday. The two-page survey is estimated to take only seven minutes to complete.

The hope is that the commission will have results compiled and analyzed by mid-June so they can update the Board of Selectmen before the end of FY 2016.

“Hopefully we can provide some information and insight to the selectmen and the various commissions on what some of the concerns are in town. And I’m hoping this will elevate the commission’s profile a little bit so we can be effective going forward in helping businesses to flourish, and support local business,” she says.

Representatives of businesses interested in taking the survey can send an email to the Commission. In return for completing the survey, the EDC is offering to profile respondent businesses on their Facebook page as “spotlight businesses.”