Rickey Hayes, Retail Attractions, LLC
Retail development professionals really prefer not to talk to cities, chambers of commerce, and local economic development staffers. At least that is what they have confided to us. The reason? Because about 99% of the time, cities are not basing their comments about the local retail potential and environment on reality. There are four groups of people that you have to watch: politicians, news media, some preachers, and economic development professionals. I’m just kidding:(not really). Each of those groups listed has a reputation for exaggeration, or telling the story with a little bit of twisted motive. That is the main reason why communities need to contract an independent, qualified, and unbiased firm to interface with the retail and development world.
So how do communities really come to grips with reality? Firstly, they have to see where they really are. They also have to know they are in competition with every other community. There is such a thing as a “regional” collaboration (and a time and place for that does exist) but in reality, there is no “regionalism”, it’s every city for itself. Secondly, an understanding of this ancient principle, “there has to be sowing before reaping”. Before a house is built, a foundation must be laid. Before a vineyard can produce fruit, lots of hard work has to happen. And last but certainly not least, there needs to be some sort of working unity or consensus of everyone involved. This is really hard to accomplish in lots of locales. There are egos, preferences, political agendas, and greed working in every community. Sometimes it’s visible (and everybody in the community sees it) and sometimes it is very sinister and hidden.
Let’s get down and dirty. A needful first step for any community that needs real economic “development” is to determine exactly what they need. The “need” can be summarized by one of the following programs: relief, rehabilitation, or actual development. Some cities need “relief”. They are going down for the third time, and need immediate assistance from outside city hall. Other communities need “rehabilitation”. That is they need to take a look at their vision, their program, or their people, figure out what has to change in order to bring new growth and positive change. Lastly, some cities need “actual development”. Development can happen when the reality of the market can be evaluated, what is missing is identified, and the real estate part can be transacted. All these parts have to be in place before real development can occur. Now please understand that this development process I have spoken of is in itself, tedious, and grindingly slow. That is reality. The principle works this way: The process of real economic development will not start itself (it must be initiated), the process is the process (let it work), the process will produce the fruit (in the fullness of time).
Call us. We can help.
Rickey Hayes is the principal of Retail Attractions, LLC, a firm dedicated to helping cities and developers successfully find and develop retail sites, close deals, transform communities, and improve the quality of life for our client cities.