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.