Business is looking good in Eden Prairie, according to the city's triennial business survey.
At an after-hours networking and informational event on Jan. 31 at the Eden Prairie City Center, elected officials, business owners and residents gathered to hear Peter Leatherman, of the Morris Leatherman Company, share the results of the business survey.
"Folks are very positive about the business climate on the micro level," Leatherman told the crowd of about 30.
As a part of the month-long survey of 400 Eden Prairie business owners or managers, respondents were asked to rate the city's business climate on a letter-grade scale.
"The city went from a 3.0 GPA to a 3.6 GPA over three years," Leatherman said.
"Partnerships are so valuable to get things done," Mayor Ron Case told the group. The tie between city hall and Eden Prairie's business community "is one of the top partnerships I can think of."
Highlighting the ties between the city and its business community, city manager Rick Getschow noted that with the mayor and three members of the city council present — Mark Freiberg, P.G. Narayanan and Brad Aho — the event officially counted as a city council meeting.
- Small businesses dominate: Eighty-two percent of Eden Prairie businesses have 25 employees or fewer, which is consistent with the 2015 survey. However, fewer businesses said they planned to hire more employees this year — 30 percent in 2018 compared to 37 percent in 2015.
- EP really is an "Eden": Eden Prairie is attractive to business leaders for its livability, low crime and the value of its rental spaces, and business leaders rated the city 14 and 29 higher on livability and rental values this year than in 2015.
- A problem with taxes: The city's taxes were far and away the most serious concern among business leaders, with 38 percent saying taxes were their biggest concern — a 26 percent jump from the 2015 survey. Eden Prairie's property taxes are lower than many of its neighbors, although no matter the tax rate, residents can usually find a nit to pick, Leatherman said. "In 20 years of (surveying), I've never seen a link between perception and reality on taxes," he added.
- Where are the workers? Nearly three quarters of business leaders reported that they had trouble finding skilled workers, with 69 percent saying the dearth of talent is already affecting their business.
- Look to the youth: Ninety-four percent of business leaders supported partnering with Eden Prairie High School in job training or education programs, although only 70 percent thought it would benefit their business. A representative for the Eden Prairie Chamber of Commerce said in an interview that the Chamber is considering shifting its yearly career fair at the high school — which focuses on showcasing various career paths to students — to a more practical job fair, which would allow students to apply for local jobs as well as learn more about future career options.
- Maintaining, not growing: The percent of business leaders looking to expand in the city in the next five years dropped from 21 percent in 2015 to 8 percent in 2018. That category hit a high in 2008, when 32 percent of leaders wanted to expand in Eden Prairie, and has dropped consistently in the three subsequent surveys.
- More digital, more distractions: Leatherman shared an assessment he's made about communications during his time conducting surveys throughout Minnesota. "The more electronic a government becomes," he said, "the less information a person has." He speculated that a city email or blog requires more effort to seek out — residents looking for information must find the correct web page and battle other digital distractions on their device, while a flier or other print notification requires less effort to read because the important information is already in front of them.