An ad hoc steering committee met March 22 to kick off a marketing study of Pataskala's "Old Village."

An ad hoc steering committee met March 22 to kick off a marketing study of Pataskala's "Old Village."

It was clear from the committee's first meeting that business owners within the Old Village will have plenty of opportunity express how they believe business could be improved and how the area could be made more attractive to customers.

"You'd be amazed how much collective knowledge there is among merchants," said Christopher Boring, principal of Boulevard Strategies. The Columbus firm provides economic and retail research and analysis, economic development and strategic planning, market plan development and program development services in the public and private sectors.

Earlier this year, Pataskala received a $15,000 downtown revitalization grant through the Ohio CDBG Small Cities Program to be used toward an Old Village study. The city is contributing roughly $17,000 in cash and manpower.

The study area roughly covers the downtown area from Willow Street to south of Atkins Street, portions of Township Road, and Jefferson to Wood Street - basically what's considered to be the "Old Village."

A steering committee of about a dozen members, composed of business owners, citizens, and local government officials, is working with the city and Boulevard Strategies to help guide the study process, collect data, and provide their own ideas and advice. Once the data is collected, Boulevard Strategies will compile a report suggesting what the Old Village businesses can do to attract more business.

It's up to the individual business owners to decide if they want to use the information, but Pataskala planning and zoning director Dianne Harris said she hopes business owners will take advantage of it.

Boring said his firm has conducted 74 such marketing studies in Ohio, many of them for downtown Columbus.

"We feel very good about the process we've developed," he said.

Boring said that process will begin with community interviews, including interviews with up to 20 community leaders on local business issues. There will also be a public meeting to introduce the people working on the survey and to gather community feedback.

The process includes interviews of downtown merchants and downtown property owners who are not merchants. Eighty to 100 shopper surveys will be evenly distributed over several locations in downtown Pataskala during busy business days, such as weekends or during community events.

The final phase of the process will be development of a strategic business plan for the Old Village including a proposed business mix to offer the widest variety of products and services possible.

The plan will include a business recruitment strategy to attract desired businesses.

Boring assured that all responses to surveys will be confidential and used for analysis only. He said while the goal is to survey all businesses within a given area, generally 50 to 60 percent will participate.

Harris said the market study should be wrapped up by late August. The city will then update its downtown development plan based on the data.

Pataskala Mayor Steve Butcher said he hopes the process will promote discussion of downtown related topics beyond the scope of the surveys.