Soliciting input on your community from out-of-town sources was discussed above in Tool 3.1 to identify community assets. That discussion, however, mainly dealt with getting insights from outside professional organizations such as state departments of economic development. Most community residents do not have regular contact with these types of organizations, but we all have contact at times with different types of out-of-town organizations and individuals that periodically travel to our community. People working for local businesses might have visits from suppliers or customers. People working in certain types of retail, especially in towns that get a lot of tourists, may see many out-of-towners every day. And of course most of us get visits from out-of-town relatives and friends (perhaps too few or too many?).
We can get good feedback from all these out-of-towners by just asking them about our communities. We don’t mean conducting formal interviews or grilling visitors ad nauseam, but just engaging them in casual conversation about their perceptions of our communities. Below are questions and useful topics for discussion with visitors.
- What thoughts do you have on our town as a place to operate a business?
- Are there particular aspects of our town that you think would be positives or negatives for operating a business?
- Do you have any questions about our town from a business perspective?
General questions (depending on who the visitor is):
- What’s your overall impression of our town?
- Are there particular aspects of the town that you like or don’t care for?
- Does the town look good to you? Is it generally clean and neat?
- Do the people here seem friendly?
- Does the town appear prosperous?
- If you were in charge of promoting our town, what aspects of it would you tout? What aspects would you try to improve?
- Do you think our town would be a nice place to live? Why or why not?