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Chamber checks pulse of El Dorado Hills with Business Walk

By: Margaret Snider, Telegraph Correspondent
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EL DORADO HILLS, CA - What might be on the minds of local business people is the crux of the El Dorado Hills Chamber of Commerce Business Walk.

In April, during the sixth annual business walk, members of the chamber spoke to more than 200 businesses in the area and asked three questions: How’s business? What do you like about doing business in this area? What needs to be done to make business even better?

Fourteen teams of three members questioned an average of 15 businesses each.

“Once we can actually help somebody, they’re blown away, and they’re going to tell people,” said Debbie Manning, President and CEO of the El Dorado Hills Chamber. “That’s what chambers have to do. We’ve got to be in there for retention and helping our businesses succeed and expand.”

Sacramento’s Metro Pulse tabulates and analyzes the results. El Dorado Hills data is also included – with absolute confidentiality to individual businesses, according to officials – in wider Sacramento area regional results.

The chamber sends a copy of the report to all the Chamber Business Walk participants and to every business that provided an e-mail address. Staff will post results on the website, www.eldoradochamber.org, and print copies which will be available at the chamber office at 2085 Vine St., Suite 105.

Past reports show, for example, illustrative charts and graphs, types of businesses visited, commonly occurring answers by category and subcategory, comparisons to previous years’ answers, and a listing of participating businesses.

Some answers recur across the years. ‘How’s business?’ results in a good number of steady/ fair and good/great responses, but are accompanied by a concern for the current economic state.

Many business owners and their employees like doing business here because they like the people, the community, and the pure quality of life, Manning said.

Gordon Helm, who owns Dry Diggings Distillery and a few other businesses, gives his answer.

“It’s close and I like everything about this area,” he said. “And it’s where I live, so that’s why.”

Answers resurface for ‘What can be done to make business even better?’

“Signage is the big problem in the business park,” Manning said. “El Dorado County is slowly but surely working on their sign ordinance.”

This need for more visibility was reiterated by Jeff Prescott, one of the owners of El Dorado Hills Crossfit.

“Once you get past Blue Shield and CVS, it’s almost like you’re coming out to no-man’s land,” Prescott said. “(It would be helpful) if you only had a way for people to know there’s some more out this way.”

Some businesses have had problems with regulations within the planning and other departments. Seeing those results tabulated in the business walk report can generate some notice.

“El Dorado County is actually working on ‘reg’ reform right now, they’ve been doing it two years and a lot of this has come out of data from the business walks,” said Manning. “I would say the business walks definitely have the ears of the elected officials and the people who run our county.”

Ray Nutting, El Dorado County District 2 Supervisor, who participated in the walk, has himself addressed some problems raised during previous business walks.

One involved a relocation of a martial arts business from one building to the next, with attendant reclassification requiring additional fees.

“We were able to switch the labeling of those buildings in the planning process and saved everybody lots of money,” Nutting said. “We were able to transfer the use so that everybody could conduct their business and no mitigation fee would occur. That would not have occurred if we were not on the business walk.”

The eight sponsors for this year’s event consisted of Style Media Group, A&A Music Events, Holiday Inn Express, SDG Business Solutions, El Dorado Hills-Folsom-Granite Bay Living Magazine, Nationwide Insurance (John J. Vocatura), Pacific Interstate Insurance Brokers, and the Mountain Democrat.

“The community and our members have to realize, we can only do these events with support from our sponsors,” Manning said.