September 18, 2010
McALLEN — City leaders hired a consultant last month to help them attract a top-flight retailer that may occupy the current site of Boeye Reservoir.
While McAllen already boasts numerous big-box stores, the city wants to attract a more select breed for the location near La Plaza Mall and Expressway 83, such as Bass Pro Shops, the big fish Harlingen has been angling to land for years.
The consultant, Retail Attractions of Owasso, Okla., inked the roughly $116,000 contract Aug. 31, according to a copy of the agreement. McAllen will also cover approved travel expenses and pay the company a bonus for each retailer that opens a McAllen location.
While the city already has an economic development corporation and a chamber of commerce working to improve the local economy, it needs someone focused on finding top-flight retailers, Mayor Richard Cortez said.
“Instead of waiting, we wanted to be proactive in contacting those we felt would complement our retail industry here,” Cortez said.
The Boeye Reservoir property, near La Plaza Mall and Expressway 83, might be attractive to a Cabela’s, Costco or Nordstrom, Cortez said. During a speech last month, he also suggested Simon Malls, which owns La Plaza, might be interested in the land.
Sales tax drives city spending, providing the largest share — 41 percent — of McAllen’s general fund. A top-flight retailer would likely attract customers from across the Rio Grande Valley and other businesses, fueling city coffers.
In recent months, the recession and stagnant economy have hurt local tax receipts, leading McAllen to cut its budget 4.3 percent for the upcoming fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1.
But despite the problems, McAllen has fared better than many Texas cities, thanks to spending by Mexican shoppers and steady local growth.
As the national economy improves, McAllen will attempt to attract top-flight retailers trying to get ahead of the recovery, said Rickey Hayes, who founded Retail Attractions in 2007 after six years as the economic development director in Owasso.
Owasso, a city of about 30,000 north of Tulsa, brought Hayes from Texas to Oklahoma, where he helped the city attract Target, Home Depot, Gap and several chain restaurants.
During the last three years of his tenure, more 1 million square feet of retail space opened in Owasso, sending the city’s sales tax revenue soaring, longtime city manager Rodney Ray said.
“The reason for that was that Rickey always answered his phone, always had information ready for developers,” Ray said. “He really is a team-oriented guy.”
Nearly all the cities Retail Attractions represents are in Oklahoma. McAllen will be the company’s first foray into Texas, though Hayes said he has worked with developers here.
It’s also a step up for Hayes. Retail Attractions has mainly worked for cities with less-developed retail sectors, where big box stores are the target.
“This is kind of like a trip to the Super Bowl,” he said. “All of the synergy that retail guys look for in a market is alive, well and proven in McAllen.”