The Dade County survey asked the following questions:
• What do you like about Dade County?
• Imagine the best possible Dade County: Describe it.
• What challenges must be addressed?
• What part can you play in developing Dade County?
• What kind of businesses would you like to see come to Dade County?
The Dade County Chamber of Commerce wasn’t shy when it decided to ask residents five open-ended questions to see what future they hope to see for their scenic county in Georgia’s northwest corner.
Instead of mailing the survey, or setting out survey forms in public places, the Chamber enlisted help of students at Covenant College through economics professor Lance Wescher.
Starting in late March, the students spread out around the county to such locations as fast-food restaurants, grocery stores, businesses, social clubs, schools, government meetings, and even the jail to hand out surveys.
“It was hand-delivered,” Chamber Executive Director Chris Musser said. “The goal was really to get a very statistically representative sample of the population.”
He said students would ask, “Could you fill this out right now?”
Residents weren’t shy about responding.
“We’ve been surprised to see the willingness — the eagerness — for people to fill out surveys,” Musser said. “We’ve had just really, really enthusiastic response to the process.”
A little more than 1,000 of the county’s roughly 16,000 residents, or about 6 percent, completed surveys.
“It’s a good sample size,” Musser said. “I had people promise steak dinners if we could get anywhere near 1,000.”
Results won’t be available for at least a couple of weeks.
Scanning through the filled-out surveys, Musser got a sense of some things residents want.
“People want things for young people to do,” he said.
Residents also appreciate Dade County’s small-town friendliness, Musser said.
“The community doesn’t want massive amounts of large-scale change,” he said.
Dade County’s top elected official thinks the survey effort is a good idea.
“It’s a good way to get people’s input,” County Commission Chairman Ted Rumley said.
Contact staff writer Tim Omarzu at tomarzu@timesfree press.com or 423-757-6651.
Tim Omarzu covers education for the Times Free Press. Omarzu is a longtime journalist who has worked as a reporter and editor at daily and weekly newspapers in Michigan, Nevada and California.