Robert Barron, Staff Writer
October 24, 2009
Six months ago the city of Enid signed a contract with a consultant whose job is to help fill in retail spaces and help maintain existing retail businesses. The idea is to strengthen the city’s sales tax base to improve infrastructure.
Rickey Hayes, of Retail Attractions LLC, is the contractor, and local officials say they are encouraged by the work that’s been done so far.
City Manager Eric Benson said retail development is encouraging with the development of data and the opportunities that have been identified. That information will be valuable to the city, Benson said.
“He opened our eyes to opportunities and mechanisms and strategies we had never imagined,” Benson said. “We’re absolutely thrilled with the capabilities, imagination and energy of Retail Attrac-tions.”
Half the city budget comes from sales tax, and Benson said no one has ever done a resourceful, scientific examination of retail needs. The city needs to know where it is positioned for retail and what can be attracted here.
“We never knew what we didn’t know,” Benson said. “There are a massive number of opportunities out there.”
Hayes said Tuesday he attended a show in Las Vegas, which is one of the best in the nation, but the national economy slowed it down last year. He is preparing to attend a regional show for Texas, Oklahoma and Arkansas in San Antonio, Texas.
“We have been able to plant some seeds, which we hope to pluck later on,” he said.
One thing officials learned is Enid has a large drawing area, which takes a lot of data to support and has required a lot of time to compile. The same figures used for retail recruitment can be used by Brent Kisling, executive director of Enid/ Garfield County Development Alliance, to help develop industry.
“The city must capitalize on its regular retail draw. Although Enid has several national retailers in place, there are some holes in those offerings,” Hayes said. “Those are common areas many people spend money on, sporting goods, electronics and some soft goods, among them.”
People traditionally go to Oklahoma City for those items, but his job is to identify the leakage and recruit niche retail to fill in the areas Enid does not have. Hayes said there is a “big fish” on the line that is not currently in Enid, but did not say what the company is or even what niche it fits into.
“We’re trying to help them come here,” he said.
One of the foremost critics of the way Enid formerly developed retail is businessman Bob Berry, who Thursday said he is “extremely satisfied,” with Hayes. One of the first things Hayes wanted to do was create a Web site to show those interested in Enid what is available. He also is developing a statistical base that shows Enid’s growth and shows Enid what is happening in retail nationally, Berry said.
Among the things Enid needs to work on is community appearance, specifically along U.S. 412 and U.S. 81.
“I think it’s the best money Enid has spent. He is not from Enid ... and doesn’t receive a commission, he is paid by the city,” Berry said.
One heartening thing the city has learned is Enid’s retail sales last year totaled $730 million, or more than $36,000 per household. Those figures mean people come to Enid from other areas to shop. Hayes determined another $300 million to $400 million is available by obtaining the right stores.
“If people go to Oklahoma City to get something it’s because they can’t find it here,” he said. “If they can get it here, they will come to Enid to shop at that store, and while they are here they will shop other places.”
That will substantially increase Enid sales tax and increase the ability of the city to perform its job.
In Hayes’ blog on his company Web site he stated cities must stay on top of market trends, technological tools, development rules and regulations and still find time to effectively market themselves to the right people.
“One thing at the heart of all growing communities is a strong and vibrant retail base,” he said. “Having all the essential retail services available in the city is critical for a city that wants to grow.”
Oakwood Mall Manager Kelly Goodwin is a member of the retail committee and called it “a breath of fresh air.”
“In the last 30 years that’s been the freshest breath of business in Enid,” he said.
Goodwin is a member of the committee that also involves the Enid/Garfield County Development All-iance. He said they are working to promote growth and development of business, which is a welcome change. Oakwood Mall has always worked to bring new business, but he said Hayes will assist with that.
“It’s very positive,” he said.
Goodwin said the process involves a data base, new Web site, which Goodwin is assisting to develop, and cleaning up certain areas of the community. It is a many-faceted project that will give Enid a better quality of life through the sales taxes it generates.
“That’s what excites me the most,” he said.