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Archive for December, 2012

Reality and Economic Development, Part 2

(required prerequisite: must read Part 1 of this series before reading Part 2)

Written by
Rickey Hayes
Retail Attractions, LLC

Yesterday I had one of those experiences where you really feel good about what you’re doing. It was a short and fleeting moment, but while it lasted I felt like I was truly doing work that mattered. I got an unsolicited call from a real estate broker in a city we work in, and I quote him verbatim, “When we hired your company I was skeptical, but after a year and a half, I think we made a great decision”. He went on to say that although he couldn’t tie every deal in the last year and a half directly to our company, he had realized the new interest started after the community contracted Retail Attractions. I told him Retail Attractions’ specialty was creating interest from private sector investors and pestering retail and restaurant site selectors until they took a good look and a good listen to the strength of a local market. Retail development extends beyond data. Yes, you need a qualified third party to validate your trade area, but more importantly your community needs a spokesperson with relationships in the retail world. Hearing about a community from a respected member of the retail world is far more effective than through the typical city propaganda.

I want to continue the very important consideration of getting city leaders to acknowledge reality in terms of recruiting retail and growing their sales and ad valorem tax base. Nowhere else do the old wife’s tales, urban legends, falsehoods, lies, and innuendos exist more frequently than in government and economic development. Doing things the way things used to be done simply will not be enough in this economy. Before you can start, you have to identify your reality, and the reality is that there is a general lack of understanding prevalent in communities across the country about how economic development happens and what works (and maybe more importantly what doesn’t work). Here are a few of the vital ingredients:

  • vision for your future
  • developable and affordable real estate
  • water, sanitary and storm sewer, electricity, natural gas, intermodal transportation infrastructure to support growth
  • capital and financing
  • available incentives
  • public / private partnerships
  • interagency and regional partnerships
  • political support
  • and most importantly, the competition factor

Oh yes, in this modern economy it is not your city against the small town down the road, it’s your city against the world. And while these ingredients differ when you compare retail centric development to traditional economic development models, retail centric development is as competitive, if not more so, than traditional economic development. While I don’t think it is necessary to deal with each of these factors individually, there are a few that must be addressed, and that is where we will start… next time.

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.