Thursday, October 6, 2016

If you were to sit down over cocktails with a group of developers and you would inevitably here a story about the town they hate dealing with. Every developer has a town or towns that they dread the prospect of doing business with for one reason or another. If your city has this kind of reputation among developers then you cannot begin to imagine how many opportunities your community has missed.  Being seen as business friendly by the development community is the first step in getting and keeping retail development strong in your city.

I am not saying a town should bow down to anything a developer asks or that a  city should hand out variances like candy on Halloween.   The vast majority of developers have no problem working within whatever regulations and procedures a municipality has in place.  Inconsistent policy, lack of information, bad communication and a lack of respect for timelines are things that developers cannot work with. 

Developers spend a lot of money, time, and resources when they put a piece of property under contract in your city.  A town can greatly increase the chances of a development becoming a reality by having a good set of codes and regulations in place and the right people in charge of implementing them. Make sure the information pertaining to those codes and regulations are easily accessible and consistent.  

Developers can deal with the most stringent of regulations as long as they know up front what to expect. The horror stories traded by developers can usually be chalked up to bad communication from city personnel or projects getting stalled out because of municipal red tape.  

Most city officials have no understanding of how important the timeline is for a developer. Everyone who has anything to do with new development on a city staff should have a firm understanding of the due diligence process that developers go through and do everything in their power to accommodate that process to get a project permitted. That kind of attitude is what developers are looking for and that kind of attitude will cause them to be your cities biggest advocate for new retailers. 

Cities and Economic Development Associations are beginning to understand that acquiring new retail  requires planning and resources, but so often they forget to make use of their greatest resource which are local and regional developers. These are the people that have the best chance of making new retail happen in your city. However,  this will only happen if they believe that they will actually be able to get a deal done. It only takes one or two bad experiences in a city before developers will spend their time and resources on a community they have confidence in.  

There is no need to change long term development plans or current standards of development in order to be perceived as development friendly. What is necessary though, is the commitment to be helpful, consistent and professional. 

Objectively accessing a municipality's current code and the way it is implemented is a key element in how Retail Attractions approaches retail recruitment for cities. Not only do we believe that actively pursuing retailers is key in today's market place, but we also believe that a town needs to be prepared for success when the opportunity arises.

Being seen as business friendly by the development community will go a long way toward bringing new retailers to a city. Having a bad reputation among developers will severely hinder the process. If your town is serious about getting new retail then cultivating good working relationships with developers is going to be a key component of a successful recruitment strategy.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

What Does Retail Mean For Your City.

Since its inception economic development has always centered around recruiting and retaining industry, but over the last decade city leaders and economic development professionals have begun to understand that recruiting and retaining retail can be just as important.

Why you may ask?

1. Tax Base.
    How many of your local tax dollars get spent in a near bye community? How many tax dollars
    does your city miss out on because the goods and services your citizens want and need are not  
    located in your town? The answer will probably shock you.

2. Jobs.

    Retail jobs are not every economic development professionals ideal, but think beyond the girl
    at the checkout stand. Think managers, warehouse, transportation, security and the list goes on.
    Also many national and regional retailers will bring in people for higher level position which
    increases population.

3. Traffic Flow.

    We tend to think of traffic as a problem to be dealt with when in reality it is a advantage that
    has to be properly managed. Traffic is good, and it creates a synergy that compounds growth.

4. Solid retail helps recruit industry.

     If a company is looking to locate to a community, the goods and services that community is
     able to provide is a factor in the location decision.

5. Overall Quality Of Life.

    Eating and shopping make up a huge part of everyone's daily life. Retail and restaurants
    are not a luxury item, they are a necessity. If a community cannot provide that necessity
    it will not survive, much less thrive.

Believe it or not retail can be cultivated and recruited. It takes planning, it takes time, and it takes
money but it can be done. Make no mistake about it this is not a DIY project. Call a professional.
Reach out to us at and lets get started. 

How Do We Get Better Retail In Our City?

That question above all others cut to the heart of the matter in so many small to mid-size American towns.  When I am talking to city officials this is the question they really want answered.

On some rare occasions the fix is simple and clear as crystal, but most of the time it is a problem that requires a lot of effort to diagnose correctly. Once the cause of a cities retail woes can be laid out in black and white it usually becomes obvious how complicated most cities retail problems truly are.

These are some simple steps that city leaders can take to begin addressing a cities retail problems.

Step 1. Get a check up.

City leaders as a whole need to commit time and resources to checking out the health of your retail market.  Healthy people go to the Dr. on a regular basis just to get a professional opinion on their current health.

If you know the retail in your town is sick, dying or just being born then you really need to go to the Dr.  Just like actual healthcare it is probably going to be expensive. It’s probably going to be more expensive than you have the immediate ability to pay but it is too important to ignore. Find someone who will work with you.

Take the time to find a consultant who points out problems and suggests solutions, avoid the one telling you exactly what you want to hear.

Pay the one that fits best for your town to produce a plan of action and if it is a plan that the city can commit to then commit to an ongoing relationship with that consultant.

Step 2. Listen to the people you hire.

If you are going to pay a consultant to diagnose your problems, create and implement solutions to those problems then have the commitment to follow through with those solutions.

How often does a Dr. tell someone "If you do not stop smoking then you are going to die". Even then people keep doing what they have been doing because it is easier than change.

The leaders of a municipality will have to commit to the treatment plan and there will be times when it is uncomfortable but it will be worth it.

Step 3. Give the treatment time to work.

Retail development by nature is a painfully slow process and your consultant should have a general idea of how long it should take before you start seeing results but it will not be fast.

However, you should get a sense that things are changing and moving in the right direction.  If you are a long way into a relationship with a consultant and do not feel a positive difference it is important to communicate that with them.  Reevaluate the plan and the city goals and see what is working and what is not. Maybe it is time to try another consultant or maybe it is time to try a different plan with the consultant you already have but you have to give anything enough time.

As a city or economic development leader it is vital to realize that not having a retail consultant is just as bad as not having a Dr. or Lawyer.  Retail and restaurants play a major roll in the health, desirability and sustainability of a city. Take the time and spend the money to make sure it is healthy and growing.

Why Yes! Our Company does do retail consulting.  Why Yes! we would be thrilled to talk with any city or economic development association that might be interested in our services.

How do we get better retailers in our city?

If people in your town are asking that question then start taking the steps necessary to answer it.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Fitting Big Box Reality Into Downtown Dreams.

 Fitting Big Box Reality Into Downtown Dreams.

"We are focusing on our revitalizing our downtown."

This is the statement I hear across the board from city leaders. The desire to have a welcoming, walk-able and vibrant city center has become ubiquitous across America. That is a realistic goal for most cities but the reality for the vast majority of towns without major populations centers is that downtown will never be able to provide the majority of a cities retail needs.

Big box chains still have a purpose and will continue to do so for a long time to come. So how does a town looking for a unique, one of a kind feel come to grips with the idea of cookie cutter big box retail?

The answer is simple, you have to cultivate both and you have to do so in a way where one compliments the other.

Igniting growth in a struggling downtown can be difficult but one step in that process that is often overlooked or just put on the back burner because it is too difficult is clearing an attractive path into your downtown.

Exit off the interstate and begin following the signs into almost any small or midsize city and the odds are that it will not be an attractive drive. The potential visitor will most likely pass empty old buildings and dilapidated or unattractive housing.  It might be so bad that some people actually turn around and never make it to the downtown a city has worked so hard to rehabilitate.

Downtown is once again the heart of a city, and American civic leaders are doing all they can to take care of them, but they have by in large totally neglected the artery's that feed that heart and this is where Big Box retail comes into play.

Retail thrives on traffic, and the bigger the retail the more traffic it needs. The land where Interstates and Highways meet will always be ground zero for retail and being active in creating that retail is just as important as all the work cities put toward downtown.

Helping cultivate chain retail will increase tax revenue much faster than downtown revitalization, but more importantly it begins to surgically repair the years of neglect the gateways into most of these downtown's have endured.  City leaders need to work with landowners and developers in several ways to help facilitate this.

A. That there is property in the area to be purchased.
B. That the property is at a reasonable market price.
C. That the necessary utilities are in place for the needs of larger retail.
D. That there will be approvals for the traffic signals, turn and deceleration lanes that will be needed
E. That there are incentives in place to entice the national retail into your market. 

Make sure this new retail adheres to the architectural and signage designs that your city has already put into place and now you have a lovely new entrance off of the interstate and into your downtown.

Meanwhile the revitalization efforts downtown should be increasing growth outward from that area. Growth should occur through the main streets as a rule but make sure it moves outward in the desirable direction.  Overtime these two areas of growth should push closer and closer together creating not only a vibrant and unique downtown but a beautiful road for people to get there, and national chain retail is the best tool to make that happen.  It is a long process, but so is revitalization and doing one without the other is no better than repairing a heart and leaving damaged artery's