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Archive for June, 2015

FIGURING OUT WHAT CITIES REALLY NEED

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.

WHAT MAKES US DIFFERENT?

Competition is good. Whether it is on the football field, in the classroom, or in business, competition can bring out the best in everybody. While I know all business is in some form or another a competition, I don’t spend a lot of time worrying about my so called “competitors”. Oh, don’t get me wrong, I know who they are. I know what they offer and what “services” they provide. But I am not in business to “compete”. I am in business to provide world class service to my customers, whether they are city governments, county governments, economic development organizations, developers, retail or restaurant brands, real estate professionals, or private land owners. I often hear communities express disappointment and angst over spending considerable money with “competitors”, and I wonder why city employees are many times gullible to the sales pitch of vendors who promise “data” that will get new retail to their community. In a lot of cases, a community’s “data” is what is turning the private sector off.

Sometimes the real issues in economic development are not dealt with when cities hire companies like ours. Very many times what communities think they need is not what they really need. Everywhere you look these days, in every form of media, someone is selling something. Modern marketing and advertising is so good, many times money is spent on goods and services that simply do not meet the perceived or real need. One of the foundational ways Retail Attractions is different is because our primary work is assisting cities in figuring out what the real needs are. We are not trying to sell your community a slick report or “demographic data”. And I am not trying to downplay the importance of market data, but the fact is that your community’s data may hurt you more than help you if your focus is on the wrong thing. Our goal is the overall growth of not only a community’s tax revenue, but the improvement of the community image and establishing a real world vision for what the community could become, and improving the overall quality of life for every citizen. The first step is always discovering the reality of where we are now. In every city, somebody should realize that progress requires change. A city that wants to do real economic development must realize that, over time, it must do things that make it different than it is now. It must do things better, and become more relevant, more disciplined, better aligned, more strategic. And it must build consensus. The problem is that institutions and organizations, like people, resist change. People and organizations seek stability and resist change.

I try to be an agent of change. Retail Attractions is always working to inject real and lasting change to situations that resist change, it is fun work. The foundational thought and scope of work of every city leader should be to determine exactly where change has to be applied. And knowing exactly where we are is the best way to figure out what needs to change.

Is your community ready to take the challenge?

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.