In conjunction with a community/citizen survey, the City recently sponsored a survey of Johnston businesses to gauge their opinions on topics such as the quality of city services, the impacts of COVID-19, broadband telecommunications services and rating the City as a place to do business. There were 80 Johnston business owners/managers who chose to have their voice heard. Sometimes it is difficult to discern what is important when viewing survey results, especially if you are looking for something that might be the basis for taking action. This is admittedly a somewhat subjective exercise, but here are a few messages we can get from these responses.

  • Eight-six percent of the respondents said that as a place to do business, Johnston was “excellent” or “good”. But 12% said Johnston was “average” and 1% said “poor.”

Takeaway – A wish that we had greater insight about what those 13% think should be done to make things better. And it is not just about City services. This is something to be explored.

  • Most respondents said that Johnston is “inclusive” and “welcoming to all people”. Two percent indicated the City is not very welcoming and inclusive, and 17% said they did not have an opinion. So, we’re good on that, right? Answer: probably not as much as we would like to think. The survey didn’t break down the race or ethnicity of respondents, so we don’t know how diverse the response pool was.

Takeaway – We should keep exploring this question. Conversations we have had with some of our major employers in recent years indicate that there is some work to do. The City Council’s recently adopted strategic plan includes this topic.  Specifically, it states that the community needs to “ensure that Johnston is a welcoming community, with a proactive Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Plan to support citizen/business engagement.” What will the tasks for achieving this goal be? It is still to be determined.

  • As with the City’s community survey, the business survey results suggest a high satisfaction with most City services. Notably, 12% of the respondents (remember this is a business survey) are dissatisfied with the availability of public transportation.

Takeaway – Again, we need more information. Are they referring to DART services from downtown to Johnston? Are they expressing a need for better access for their employees? Or are they just expressing a need for public transportation between the east and west sides of the community?

  • Fifty percent of the respondents say they are still experiencing distress as a result of COVID-19, and yet seventy-six percent say they are very prepared or prepared “to meet the needs of changing industry as a result of COVID‐19 and similar challenges that may occur in the future.”

Takeaway – One thing we observe in our day-to-day interactions with businesses is that there is resiliency and strength among business owners and managers. They work hard every day to survive and you can feel their hope for the future is strong. Nothing scientific about this. But the survey results do seem to reflect this condition.

  • Eighty-four percent of the respondents say they already have broadband services at their business, and twelve percent do not. That said, 32% of the respondents said that “it is very important that their internet service is improved, because their current service is not meeting their needs.”

Takeaway – Johnston has Century Link, Mediacom and now Metronet. Issue solved? Too soon to say. The community should complete the visioning study recently started, identify gaps in service, and explore solutions. To be competitive in the future – 100% broadband access should be the goal, and in the process, maybe there should be a conversation about what speeds are required to meet those business and community needs.

Think you might reach some different conclusions? You can download the report and identify your own takeaways.