Leader Blues

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

TOP STORY > >City has few negatives in recent survey

By RICK KRON
Leader staff writer

Most Jacksonville residents give the city a B grade according to the results of a telephone survey conducted by Opinion Research Associates.

The most recognizable aspect of Jacksonville is the Little Rock Air Force Base and most people would come to town to visit the military museum, according to the survey.

The survey shows that 51 percent of residents would grade Jacksonville a B, another 15 percent give the city an A, while only 2 percent of residents rate the city an F.

The survey, commissioned by the Sells Advertising Agency which was hired by the Jacksonville Advertising and Promotion Commission to help promote and market the city, also surveyed Pulaski County residents outside of Jacksonville and state residents outside of Pulaski County.

Statewide, 51 percent of those surveyed thought Jacksonville was a good place to live or visit, while 74 percent in the county thought likewise. Only 2 percent of statewide residents and 1 percent of county residents said they were not impressed by Jacksonville.

“Your negatives are very, very low,” Mike Sells told the commission at a meeting Monday night. “And that’s a good thing. It’s easier to convince people you are good if you don’t have to convince you’re not bad,” he said.

The survey also showed that a large chunk of people in the county and statewide have no opinion or knowledge of Jacksonville.
Statewide, 40 percent had no opinion; in the county that dropped to 13 percent.

“That’s also good news,” Sells said. “It means, especially at the state level, that we have a blank canvas we can paint.”

When state residents were asked what was the first thing that came to their minds when they heard the word Jacksonville, nearly half had no response or no idea, but 34 percent said the air base, while 2 percent thought of the air show and another 2 percent recognized the city for its car dealerships.

Out of the county residents surveyed, 51 percent said the air base, while 18 percent offered no opinion, 5 percent mentioned the car dealerships, 2 percent said the air show, 1 percent mentioned the Vertac/dioxin problems that plagued the city nearly 20 years ago, and 1 percent thought of the Unique Furniture ads.

One-third of state residents said they had been shopping in Jacksonville in the past six months, and 91 percent said shopping in Jacksonville was a good experience.

Nearly half the county residents surveyed had shopped recently in Jacksonville, and 90 percent had good experiences in the city.

A vast majority of state and county residents surveyed were not aware of the quality of hotels, food or activities in the city.
“More than 80 percent of those statewide residents had no idea of local hotel accommodations, 70 percent didn’t know about the restaurants and 85 percent couldn’t think of activities to do in Jacksonville,” he said.

At the county level, 66 percent didn’t know about the hotels, 50 percent didn’t know about the restaurants and 63 percent didn’t know about the activities.

“That’s the clean slate we are talking about,” Sells said, and it gives the ad agency an opportunity to mold the public’s opinion.
When state and county residents were asked if a state-of-the art community center, the aquatic park or the military museum would make them more likely to visit, the military museum took top honors.

Nearly 30 percent of state and county residents said they would visit because of the museum.

“I’m just so glad to hear that, and that falls in line with our steady increase of visitors,” said Joan Zumwalt, with the group that runs the museum.

The city’s water park sparked the interest of 17 percent of state residents and 22 percent of county residents.

The community center ran almost the same, peaking the interest of 17 percent of state residents and 20 percent of county residents.

Of the Jacksonville residents surveyed, 49 percent ranked the city’s hotels as good or excellent, 62 percent ranked the restaurants as good to excellent and 46 percent said the availability of activities was good to excellent.

But still 2 percent of the city residents surveyed gave the city an F. What did they find fault with?

According to the individual surveys, the most important thing Jacksonville could do to improve life for its residents is to bring in more jobs, and not just more jobs, but better jobs.

This was followed by suggestions to get better schools, fix up schools or get its own school district.

The ad agency and commission will use the findings to help develop a plan to better market the city.

For survey results, Opinion Research Associates called 200 city residents, 200 county residents who did not live in the city and 200 state residents who did not live in the county.

The survey had a margin of error of 7.1 percent.