That includes everything from implementing new regulations for abandoned properties that have become eyesores, to finding ways to redevelop the sections of the highway that have fallen into disrepair – and even whether the name of the highway needs to go.
Lynette Leathers said she wants to know if the business owners like their highway being officially known as Irlo Bronson Memorial Highway – or would prefer something else.
“Give us feedback about the idea of renaming West Irlo Bronson Highway, as well as some name suggestions,” she said.
Leathers is the president of Mind Spot Marketing Research, a firm that has been hired by the West 192 Economic Advisory Committee to conduct a survey of the businesses on that highway.
The advisory committee was appointed last year by Osceola County commissioners to study the tourist corridor, and recommend ways to improve it, and to make it more appealing.
Different sections of the highway are either growing – or hurting. The section around Four Corners — where the counties of Polk, Lake, Orange and Osceola come together — is still growing, with new businesses coming into shopping plazas there.
But the section closer to Kissimmee has a lot of vacant buildings that are falling into disrepair and have become an embarrassment to other businesses operating there.
Mary Ellen Kerber, the manager of the Formosa Gardens Village, the shopping plaza on U.S. 192 in Four Corners, also serves on the Economic Advisory Committee. She said Osceola commissioners just hired Tom Woods, an economic development consultant who worked with officials in Anaheim, Calif., to help revitalize the tourist corridors that lead to DisneyLand and other attractions. He plans to bring his expertise in this field to helping U.S. 192, she said.
“He’s been retained by the county as a consultant on the project, which is pretty exciting,” Kerber said.
Hector Lizasuain, Osceola County’s West 192 coordinator, said the advisory committee is also looking into the idea of creating multiple CRAs, or Community Redevelopment agencies, to establish “future plans for the next 20 years,” he said. “When this is all said and done, there will be a master plan put in place for (U.S.) 192.”
A CRA is a public entity created by a city or county to generate and implement community redevelopment activities in a specific area. It is governed by an appointed board of five to seven members, and works to rehabilitate what have become classified as areas that have fallen into “slum” conditions.
But the CRAs will also be working with – and, in fact, for – the businesses along the corridor, Lizasuain said.
“The redevelopment authority will carry out the orders of the businesses on that corridor,” Lizasuain said.
That’s why the advisory council has taken on Mind Spot Marketing, to reach out to business owners and find out what they want done to bring back the sections of U.S. 192 that are struggling.
“We do global online surveys,” Leather said. “The Internet makes so many things possible. We also do customer satisfaction and loyalty trackers, and accelerated naming and branding. We do strategic consulting. What we do is help you reduce your risk.”
She said Mind Spot already does focus groups for the tourism and hospitality businesses that make up the Osceola Resort Area Council, a group operating under the Kissimmee-Osceola County Chamber of Commerce. Leather is now reaching out to businesses at the Four Corners Area Council, which is made up of businesses operating in Four Corners.
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