FCBA students featured in Pekin Times

May 10, 2011

By Ken Harris

Pekin Daily Times

http://www.pekintimes.com/features/x634517003/Students-light-way-for-economic-growth

Manito economic development should concentrate on unique retail shops, more restaurant options and a relatively small lodging operation to succeed, according to a group of senior Bradley University business students.

A group of six students, now a couple short weeks from graduation, produced a 57-page report and presented their findings Wednesday based on a village-wide survey recently conducted over the course of 2½ weeks. The report addresses the ideas of business growth, the demand for lodging and the feasibility of the community supporting a rural medical clinic.

According to the presentation, Manito should focus on bringing small, unique shops to town — as opposed to stores that sell practical, everyday objects. According to Project Manager Krystal Kindelsperger, residents are already comfortable commuting to nearby cities to buy those products.

Chamber President Ken Farnam said he agreed with that assessment, but added the poor economy may hinder that right now.

“I think people in Manito are used to driving to do their shopping,” Farnam said.

The group also found there is a market for a bed-and-breakfast, or a motel with 20 rooms or less. Kindelsperger said the village could likely not provide enough business to keep any lodging larger than that open.

Farnam said this finding also did not surprise him, and somebody has already contacted him about bringing a bed-and-breakfast to town. He added, “I just don’t know if we could support a motel or not.”

According to Kindelsperger, having a bed-and-breakfast that also served as a restaurant would also address a perceived need for more eatery options.

As far as hosting a rural medical clinic, the group decided the best chance at success would be to provide a clinic affiliated with OSF St. Francis because that was among the top-two medical providers to village residents, along with Pekin Hospital. However, the group felt Pekin Hospital was close enough that people had no problem driving to it, while having an OSF-affiliated clinic would save a relatively long commute.

Currently, the village has a medical office through Hopedale Medical Clinic, according to Farnam, who added Mason District Hospital has made overtures about providing part-time clinical care in the village.

The students began working in February with Nancy Proehl, who is Manito’s community development director, and other members of the Manito Chamber of Commerce, according to Kindelsperger. She said the students selected the project because they knew they could rely on good cooperation from the chamber of commerce.    

“We were expecting the chamber would be open and honest with us, and we were expecting to get filled in on what the area was like,” Kindelsperger said.

After brainstorming the request from Manito, the group decided to create and disseminate a 16-question survey for residents to learn about the quality of the demand for services in the village.

Unfortunately, after spending many hours forming the survey with help from the chamber, the group received only 84 responses, which was well short of the 200 responses they had hoped to receive. The data was also skewed because 70 percent of the survey respondents were 65 years old or older, and thus the data did not provide a balanced look at the village’s demographics.

With that shortage of responses, Kindelsperger said, the findings based on the insufficient information were not definitive.    

“We feel that we’ve provided the groundwork, but it still needs to be built upon,” Kindelsperger said. “With the number of responses we received we weren’t able to provide the answers we’d wanted, but we hope that what we did give you was helpful.”

Farnam said he was impressed by the thought and organization that went into the project, and the chamber will look into adding to the data compiled by the students at its next meeting Friday, May 6.

Survey results
Percentage of products residents buy outside of Manito
Personal care:    68%
Groceries:    71%
Household goods:    68%
Appliances:    77%
Clothing:    86%
Other:    5%

How frequently lodging would be needed by visitors
Every week:    0%
Every month:    7%
Every 6 months:    46.5%
Every year:    46.5%

(Source: “Manito: A Great Place to Call “Home” prepared for Manito Chamber of Commerce)