By MELODY JAMESON
SUN CITY CENTER – Residents here are on track to revisit a community modernization plan – this time one entirely of their own making.
Community Association directors last week agreed to contract with Dr. Erika Matulich, a University of Tampa marketing professor and business consultant, for an independent assessment of residents’ preferences regarding an updating plan.
Their timetable, including conduct of focus groups, community-wide survey and tabulations of results, points toward an association membership action plan by year’s end.
The CA board move follows a community vote in February which soundly rejected their proposal to expand the Central Campus with two new architect-designed structures, a café and other enhancements financed with a 10-year bank loan taking advantage of current low interest rates and recession-reduced construction costs.
That substantial balloting turn-out – nearly 4400 votes or about 40 percent of the membership – defeated the package project by 500 nays amid complaints about incurring debt, depending on fees accruing from home sales to incoming first-time buyers for repayment as well as lack of community input and dislike for proposed building design. The proposal was based on a community-wide survey conducted in early 2011 and presented in numerous community meetings over a span of months late in the year.
In the course of board discussion last week, President Ed Barnes noted that “many people in SCC want to move forward with a plan to modernize our facilities on a pay-as-you-go basis.” In order to do so effectively, he added, “we need to obtain the consensus of the membership and have a process which will incorporate the views, ideas and thoughts of our members into a long range plan.”
Board members agreed that the “go forward plan” should stem from an effort independent of both the board and undue membership influence but using a focus group approach to collect residents’ opinions, ideas and thoughts.
To accomplish that objective, the board turned to Matulich, who earned a doctorate in business administration from the University of Wisconsin, Madison, with a major in marketing along with a minor in social psychology and research methods. She now is a full Professor of Marketing at UT, teaching both undergraduate and graduate courses involving behavior, research, planning, and strategy within that discipline.
She also earned bachelor and master degrees, in management, journalism, marketing and statistics, from Texas Christian University. In addition, she is a certified focus group moderator, team facilitator and leadership coach.
Matulich’s list of clients as a consultant include small businesses, major corporations and non-profits from Pets.com and the American Paint Horse Association to Bell Helicopter Textron, Kellogg’s, Norwegian Cruise Lines, Peterbilt, and Proctor and Gamble to Girl Scouts and the YWCA. She has been an expert witness in state and federal courts, providing expertise on focus group and best marketing research practices. The professor is widely published, as well, according to her professional resume.
The consultant currently is performing survey and assessment services for the Kings Point Federation in connection with possible uses of the two-story building where the WCI-Prudential Real Estate brokerage was housed. Kings Point acquired the structure as part of its amenities package when the community borrowed about $53 million a few years ago to purchase many of its recreational facilities from the developer. Matulich’s KP survey produced a significant 40 % return rate, Eileen Peco, federation president, said this week.
Her contract with the CA is capped at $15,000.
Emphasizing the diversity of the Sun City Center population in terms of ages, interests, backgrounds, club participations and the like, Director David Floyd said this week that among the consultant’s first tasks will be forming and leading focus groups of volunteering residents. Such groups might be built around characteristics like under 65 years of age or over 75 years old, around location of home in the community, around large or small club membership, around community service involvement or any number of other definitions representing segments of the community, he suggested.
About 40 focus group volunteers have stepped forward already, Barnes said, adding that more are welcome. Anyone interested in being part of a focus group can contact the CA office by telephone or email, at 813/633-3500 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Floyd said that building priorities the various focus groups might consider range from new clubrooms to a new welcome/information center to a new combined security patrol and Samaritan facility, from expanded parking near the Atrium to a revitalized Plaza to an upgraded library and Rollins Theater, from improved campus landscaping to a café/social meeting area.
Output from the focus groups then is to be used for design and development of a survey form which will be distributed to every CA member, Barnes said. Whether the completed forms are returned to a locked box in the CA offices or mailed directly to the consultant, the collection will be maintained by her to preserve anonymity of the respondents, he added.
Matulich will be responsible for tabulating the survey information, creating a data base and analyzing the data using statistical tools. The end result is expected to be summary of the data and recommendations of researchers reported to the CA membership in a Town Hall session this fall, Barnes noted. Ultimately, the process will produce a long term plan of action for membership consideration, he added.
In this way, an independent, unbiased and objective assessment of community needs as members see them will take shape, Barnes concluded, and “every member will have an opportunity to have a say in what we want to do in the future.”
Copyright 2012 Melody Jameson