Panel advises ways for businesses to attract students

Reporter and Reporter

A panel of six University students met with local business owners to discuss the importance of downtown BG in the Union Wednesday night.

The meeting was sponsored by the Bowling Green Chamber of Commerce, which hoped to educate local business owners with student opinions.

“This is a fantastic way for the community to have dialogue with the students,” said Jill Carr, dean of students and vice president of Student Affairs.

People from businesses such as the First Presbyterian Church, Serenity Spa and Salon and BG Hats and Apparel attended the meeting.

Transportation and the student shuttle service headlined the initial concern brought up at the meeting.

The specific concern was how unknown the shuttle service is to the students and how it isn’t being utilized well enough, said Barbara Ruland, executive director for the Downtown Foundation.

For example, the green route, which crosses Main Street while traveling between the University and Wood County Hospital, is less known to the students, she said.

But if utilized to their fullest potential, the shuttle services could feed the downtown businesses with student customers, Ruland said.

While the orange and brown shuttles are more well know to students, the shuttles that travel beyond campus are not.

“I think a lot of students have a fear of a bus that isn’t orange or brown,” said Tyler Buchanan, a member of the student panel and the In Focus editor for The BG News.

The orange and brown shuttle traverses the perimeter of the University and is more familiar to the students, especially when they make the hike to lot 12, said sophomore Kristie Snouffer, a member of the student panel.

Local business owners hope new techniques, such as students being able to use their BG1 cards at their stores, are on the minds of University administrators as they look to the future.

Several members of the student panel were excited about the idea of their BG1 cards having more applications, especially for stores downtown.

“Heck yeah I’d be downtown more often if I could use my BG1 card,” Snouffer said.

Several local businesses such as Chipotle, Jimmy Johns and The Oasis already accept the BG1 cards to help grow their customer base.

Students who are on a meal plan need to be convinced to spend money off campus if they have Falcon Dollars or meal swipes since they essentially have their meals already paid for at the University, Snouffer said.

A way of convincing students to spend at certain businesses could come through special themed nights or coupons, said Kristina Wrightfields, a grad student on the panel.

“I’d like to see more student specials beyond something like Happy Hour,” she said.

Advertising through specials, discounts and social media serve as an example of how downtown businesses need to grow and evolve as they march into the future if they want to keep their business successful, said Chris Dire, a grad student on the panel.

Generally, downtown businesses like to join in on activities like Campus Fest to advertise themselves to a new group of students, said Becky Falknor, owner of Serenity Spa and Salon.

However, business owners are wary of overdoing their advertising to the incoming freshmen, given the amount of information they’re already taking in.

“I think freshmen year is so overwhelming for students,” Falknor said.

Business owners continue to advertise despite those fears because with every new class of freshmen comes more potential customers, Falknor said.

“We love students coming downtown,” she said. “It’s just hard to get people to pass info on about us.”

After the discussion ended several business owners expressed positive reactions to what they had learned from the students on the panel.

“Right now Bowling Green is a thriving community,” Falknor said. But, “we’d like to see more students downtown.”