Lawrence Chamber of Commerce officials aim to quiz 70 of the county's largest industrial employers about how business-friendly they find the community.
Chamber officials this week are asking companies to participate in a 250-question survey that covers subjects such as growth plans, quality of city services and whether they think the community is a good place to do business.
Lynn Parman, the chamber's vice president of economic development, said chamber officials decided to conduct the survey so they would have more statistics on what issues are facing some of the city's largest employers.
"We'll be going from a system of 'he said, she said' to a system of 'they said,'" Parman said. "It will allow us to be in a better position to take action on issues that need to be addressed to retain businesses."
Parman is sending out a letter to area companies. The letter explains the survey and asks executives to set up an interview with Parman.
During the next six to eight months, Parman hopes to meet with company officials and administer the survey. The chamber then will compile the data and begin releasing its results.
"It will produce some very quantifiable results," Parman said. "I'll be able to come back and say, for example, 58 percent of the businesses surveyed rate police protection as above average or average."
The survey will ask company executives to rate 13 different community services, including police, traffic control, schools and property tax assessments.
The survey also will ask firms to reveal whether their sales are increasing or declining, whether they have plans to expand or reduce their presence in the county, and how they view the quality of the area's work force.
Parman said a new computer software program the chamber recently purchased would allow her to generate a "report card" for each company. The program scores the firm's growth potential on a scale of 1 to 100.
"It will show us who is truly standing out in terms of growth potential," Parman said. "On the flip side, if we have a company that looks like it may be at some risk of declining or leaving, it allows me to better monitor and work with them on issues that the community might be able to help them with."
Parman said she was optimistic that she'll get a large number of the companies to participate in the survey, in part because the chamber is agreeing to not release any of the company's individual data to the public. She also thinks companies will see the value of the information.
"I'm going to stress this is a way for us to proactively address issues that will make it a better place for them to do business," Parman said. "For us, the bottom line is coming up with better ways to retain the companies we have here."