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Remember the median strip on Harlem Ave. in the Palos Heights business district? The city removed it in the early 1990s at the recommendation of a Trinity Christian College student consulting team. Once again, the city has called upon the College to help improve the city's commercial environment.

On Wednesday evening, January 22, two business consulting teams reviewed the results of a survey conducted for the Palos Heights business community to assess the needs and wants of its constituents. The teams presented their findings to members of the Palos Heights Chamber of Commerce and the city's business and economic development committee in the Ozinga Chapel.

"We want to make ourselves available to the city," said John Kooyenga, department chairman. "All they have to do is tell us what they need."

Each of the groups, composed of senior business majors, focused on a different segment. Project manager Kara Bruxvoort (Highland, Indiana) led the efforts of Jesse Ryan (Palos Hills, Illinois), Tim Bakker (Highland, Indiana), and Jennifer Beenes (Oak Lawn, Illinois) as they targeted the residents and customers. Matt Nichols (Grand Rapids, Michigan) served as project manager while teaming with Greg Diamond (Lemont, Illinois), Phil Ludens (Oostburg, Wisconsin), and Brett Ritzema (Fulton, Illinois) to focus on business owners. Together, they sent out nearly 2500 surveys and received more than 900 responses.

The surveys polled respondents on issues such as parking, customer service, aesthetic appeal, and community relationships. The results indicated varying perspectives held by residents and merchants. For example, most consumers said parking was a major deterrent to shopping in the city, but many of the owners who responded did not hold that opinion.

"It's good that these students take the time to do this research and share this information with us," said Ald. Jean Gnap, a 32-year Palos Heights resident who serves on the chamber and the economic development committee. "This is very beneficial for the city and will help us make better decisions."

Respondents also submitted suggestions for different businesses that Palos Heights should bring into the area, such as a drug store, restaurant, bookstore, or department store. Both the chamber and the committee gained a better understanding of the views of the city's residents and business owners.

"We're all in this together," said Tom Barcelona, chairman of the business and economic development committee. "There's a lot of work that needs to be done, and we look forward to working with the chamber and the College to address these concerns. This is a great opportunity for us."

At the end of the evening, Palos Heights Mayor Bob Straz presented a plaque to Kooyenga and the College in appreciation of the teams' cooperation and efforts. City Manager Bruce Trego and Rick VanDyken, president of the chamber, also attended the presentation.

Area businesses or organizations who are interested in having a student consulting group provide research or develop a business plan may contact the College to explore future opportunities.

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