In an effort to learn about and build relationships within the Southlake business community, the City of Southlake’s Economic Development & Tourism Department has developed a business engagement program driven by volunteers—Business Buddies.
These invaluable volunteers act on behalf of the City to conduct interviews and site visits with local businesses to demonstrate the City’s support for the business community and to uncover opportunities to improve the local business climate, find benefits for existing businesses, and a means for the City to establish a meaningful and productive relationship with local businesses.
In 2016, the City of Southlake adopted an Economic Development Master Plan, part of which recognized the value that the business community brings to Southlake and recommended strategies for the City to grow those relationships. Thereafter, a formal business engagement program was developed. Since the inception of the Business Buddies program in April 2018, six volunteers have already joined and are actively interviewing businesses. Five additional volunteers recently registered and are awaiting their assignments. There are no requirements for becoming a Business Buddy and anyone who is interested in participating in the program is encouraged to learn more about becoming involved.
After receiving business assignments, typically an initial list of five to ten specifically targeted businesses, Business Buddies establish contact and schedule interviews with the business owner or manager. Equipped with discussion tools and specific interview questions, Business Buddies then open an insightful dialogue with each respective business before reporting back to the City.
“Business Buddies assist the City with creating and maintaining working relationships with the business community and engage with key businesses on local community matters that could be mutually beneficial for the businesses and the City,” stated Deputy Director of Economic Development Daniel Cortez. “We assign the businesses to volunteers to get a wide range of business types within various industries. Most visitors typically think of retail and restaurants when they think of Southlake, but Southlake is also home to several other industries including some light industrial, technology, finance and marketing related businesses. We want to make sure our Southlake business community voices are being heard.”
While many business “visitation” programs are typically comprised of quantitative measures for the community through specific survey questions, Southlake focuses primarily on qualitative information in order to generate actionable strategies and achieve results with the businesses. This allows for improving business conditions and strengthening partnerships, as well as identifying future challenges for the business community.
In order to reach out to the many businesses that call Southlake home, the City is looking to grow the program through its number of volunteers so it can continue to build its relationship with the over 1,800 businesses that are located in Southlake.