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Archive for November, 2012

Reality and Economic Development

Written by
Rickey Hayes
Retail Attractions, LLC

Reality is defined as “the state of the world as it really is rather than one might want it to be”. The state of the world as it really is… The very thought of that scares a lot of folks. The fact is that most people prefer living in a world that pretty much goes the way they think it ought to, instead of the possibility of dealing in the harsh reality of the way things actually are. The movie response to the demand of all we want is the truth is that most people can’t handle the truth or at least need the truth to be watered down a bit. This question of reality and the way things really are gets clouded and hazy quicker in government than in almost any other place. If media, in all forms, from newspapers, magazines, internet, television, books, etc. could only print what was real and true, the flood of words we see and hear every day would look entirely different in scope and in volume. City governments are governed by elected officials who should have at the very least a good understanding of reality as their foundational qualification. Unfortunately that is not always the case. Be that as it may, the truth is that before real and positive change can occur, somebody has to get a glimpse of reality.

Retail Attractions has had the privilege of working in cities of every size in several states over the last four years. In terms of economic development, reality is always the starting place for real and positive change. It is the elected officials and the city administration that should be in ultimate control of economic development, not the chamber of commerce and not some quasi-governmental group (unless the quasi-governmental group is only a recommender of the direction the local leaders should go). We believe economic development (marketing, data, strategic and development planning, and all the enter-twined relationship building necessary to accomplish the task) can best be done by a professional, independent, third party group with the qualifications, experience, expertise, and relationships to get the job done. This process functions best when these services are performed on contract basis by an outside organizations and city leaders can be brought back to reality on a regular basis. City governments for the most part do not understand the process of economic development (especially retail development)… the amount of time it takes and the complexity of the process. I run into city councilors all the time who are “always certain, and often wrong” about the way economic development should be accomplished.

Reality may not always be pleasant, but no real progress in anything has ever been made, no goals have ever been reached, no problems have really been solved without looking at the situation squarely with reality glasses on. So what does that mean to city governments? If you think you can navigate the very complex, very competitive, very detailed work of retail development in any of its multi-faceted details without outside assistance you are simply not facing reality. Why do banks, which are usually pretty detail oriented places, have regular visits from people called examiners? Because outside, independent, third party eyes can see things from a point of view that help bring reality to the picture. We just came through perhaps the worst banking scandal in our country’s history because loans were made in a cloudy, shady, and very loosely scrutinized way. Reality is a good thing. What makes good lawyers, doctors, mechanics, CPA’s, judges, and politicians? The willingness on their part to deal with the issues at hand in realistic terms. What makes good marriages, good partnerships, and happy endings? Facing reality and making the right course corrections on the journey on from where you are to where you’re going. Reality will never fail you.

Rickey Hayes is the principal of Retail Attractions, LLC, a firm dedicated to helping cities and developers successfully find retail sites, close deals and improve the quality of life for our client cities.