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Retail, economic development improving in Wagoner

 

With the incoming of Wagoner’s new Dollar Tree and two other national quick service restaurants in various stages of development within the city limits, Wagoner’s retail market continues to expand with growth.

According to City of Wagoner Communications Director Charity Muehlenweg, these new retailer and restaurant deals have come to Wagoner as a result of the efforts of the city’s retail consultant Rickey Hayes.

The city hosted a Retail Attractions seminar in February, where Hayes gave a presentation concerning the retail development of Wagoner, comparing numbers from other communities. He explained that change, which was the basis of the presentation, is inevitable — whether painful or pleasant — if citizens want their city to grow.

“Change is something we all need to embrace,” Hayes told a crowd of Wagoner citizens, business professionals and elected officials.

“Why does your city need retail,” he asked? “Because it improves the quality of life ... and it’s the only thing in Oklahoma that creates general fund revenue for cities, outside of electric utilities and other public utilities.”

Hayes is the founder of the Owasso-based retail consultancy, Retail Attractions, which, according to Hayes, has contracts with over 90 cities or communities throughout the U.S. to help grow their retail markets.

“Through Hayes’ endeavors with the City of Wagoner and Wagoner Public Works Authority, the hope is to continue to create effective, sustainable change that will be a part of the ongoing efforts to improve the quality of life for the citizens of Wagoner,” Muehlenweg said.

The two quick service restaurants that are coming to Wagoner have not been officially named, but Hayes said they are coming.

“One of these brands has a sight already under contract, while another is currently evaluating multiple Wagoner sites,” Hayes said. “Both of these restaurants are national brands and will help us further validate the Wagoner market.”

Muehlenweg said the biggest challenge the city faces when trying to bring in new retail is “misconceptions when it comes to the impact of retail development on cities” by the citizens.

“These misconceptions can threaten to put Wagoner at a disadvantage in furthering the overall economic growth,” she said.

When it comes to retail, according to Hayes’ consultancy, it matters to many companies — especially the large, national ones — what infrastructure and other retailers are in the area.

“Large companies and big private sector developers are not interested in putting down anchors in an area that isn’t already developed with infrastructure and boasting a high traffic count,” Muehlenweg said.

For example, Muehlenweg said, Quik Trip gave the “green light” to many developers to move into Wagoner area.

“When it comes to economic development, the city would like to encourage citizens to look at the bigger picture and to understand that retail, commercial development and fast food increase the economy and creates an environment where bigger companies and developers want to be,” she added.

Believe it or not, according to Wagoner Economic Development Authority Chair Pamela Stephens-Karnes, the population of a city is not as important to big developers as some may think. More important are the location and traffic patterns when evaluating site selection.

“Just because a community has a larger population does not necessarily make it the most attractive location for new development,” Stephens-Karnes said. “Travel corridors have historically been the reason for development.”

“From the time of the railroads and railroad switches to today’s highway intersections, Wagoner has always been that place,” she concluded.

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