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Archive for February, 2019

Here’s Why It’s So Important To Keep Municipal Infrastructure Up To Date, and What You Can Do To Make That Happen

Municipal infrastructure is the sort of thing most people take for granted until it stops working. Unless someone’s job involves working on this infrastructure, they only think about their town’s sewage system when the toilet won’t flush, or wonder about stormwater management when their basement floods.

If you’re involved in local government, though, can’t afford to forget about municipal infrastructure until it breaks down. It’s important that you keep this infrastructure up-to-date for both residents and local businesses.

That’s easier said than done, though. Funding shortages and other logistical concerns can keep cities from keeping their municipal infrastructure up to date. Wouldn’t it be nice if you could get some help coming up with a workable solution?

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People Are Counting On You

Residents in your community depend on you to provide reliable and affordable municipal services. Not only that, but businesses count on these services as well and you’ll have a hard time attracting new businesses if the municipal infrastructure can’t support retail expansion.

Streets, bridges, sewers, water pipes, treatment plants, transit systems, electricity grid, high-speed broadband, and cellular service are all vital to today’s cities. If you want a thriving community for the people and businesses who are counting on you, then you’ll need to invest in your infrastructure.

Challenges To Infrastructure Improvements

Your community isn’t the only one struggling to find ways to keep municipal infrastructure up to date. Cities across the United States need significant infrastructure improvements. In most cases, local governments don’t have the resources or the finances to pay for all the needed improvements. Getting state, federal, and private-sector funding is also a huge challenge.

Another challenge that faces communities is the need to increase understanding of how serious infrastructure problems really are. Cities also need to develop new, sustainable, and innovative methods of financing the infrastructure that residents need. In addition, you’ll want to develop a plan for updating and maintaining infrastructure in a way that makes sense logistically as well as financially.

How We Can Help

Retail Attractions provides general municipal consulting services for growing communities. We help clients with the development of:

  • Local or regional comprehensive plans
  • Water, stormwater and sewer master plans
  • Transportation/traffic flow master plans
  • Technology master plans
  • Zoning master plans
  • Parking, lighting, sign, and landscaping ordinances

We can also advise and assist city governments with annexation efforts. In addition, once a community has a plan for a healthy infrastructure, Retail Attractions can help entice retail development to your community. Just contact us today to get started.

If you liked this article, be sure to pick up a copy of my new book The Devil’s In the Details: Things that Challenge City Government and the Language of Development. It addresses issues that undermine foundational economic development efforts for cities. It also provides guidelines for how to overcome those issues. Click here to learn more and order a copy.

Want To Make Your City “Smart” Here’s What You Need To Know About How The Internet of Things Relates To Cities

You’ve heard of smartphones, but what about smart cities?

As we move into an increasingly digital future, we’re connecting more and more things to the internet. Want street lights to switch on-and-off at a certain time relative to sunset? Connect it to the internet. People having trouble knowing where to park? Connect parking meters to the internet and drivers can check which are available from their phone.

Connecting things like street lamps, parking meters, coffee makers, thermostats, security cameras, and many other devices creates what we call the Internet Of Things (IoT). In the future, anything that can be connected will be connected. And that includes cities just like yours.

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Here’s What A “Smart City” Looks Like

Using the Internet of Things to create smart cities is still a relatively new concept. Many cities are already using it, though. And it’s a good bet that the trend of using IoT to improve the lives of people within cities will continue rapidly. Here are some of the many ways connecting city systems to the Internet of Things can look like:

Roadway sensors monitor conditions related to traffic congestion, weather, accidents, etc. Sensors can send messages to signs in the town and/or smartphone apps.

Smart parking meters show available spots on apps, which cuts down drive time for those working and shopping in your city.

Smart thermostats regulate heating and cooling to optimize energy usage in commercial buildings.

Water monitors streamline water quality assessments, detect leaks, and make it easier to manage water use.

Smart lampposts only brighten during specific lighting conditions or when pedestrians or vehicles approach.

A smart electricity grid analyzes energy use and adapts in order to deliver the optimal supply needed for each household.

Air pollution sensors and weather prediction monitors make it easier to monitor sustainability efforts.

Waste sensors in garbage bins monitor garbage levels and optimize routes for waste collection.

Smart emergency cameras help dispatcher determine severity of emergencies and find optimal routes to the locations.

Pros and Cons To Using The Internet Of Things

IoT allows for nearly endless connections to take place, and we don’t fully understand yet what the impact of those connections will be. It’s an exciting prospect to think of city systems working together to make things better for the people who live in the cities. But there are also some challenges and concerns.

Security is the biggest issue facing the Internet of Things. The more devices that are connected to the internet, the greater the potential that someone could hack into the system. There’s also the related issue of privacy and data security to consider. The issues don’t have easy answers, but they are something to keep in mind and continue discussing as you start to use IoT in your city.

Don’t Get Left Behind

The analyst firm Gartner estimates that by 2020 there will be over 26 billion connected devices making up the Internet of Things. That sounds like a lot, but other sources say that estimate is actually too low. Some even put the number at over 100 billion.

With so much of the world incorporating technology, you don’t want your city to miss-out. Here are Retail Attractions, we can help you navigate issues related to economic and retail development as your city becomes increasingly influenced by the IoT and other technology. Contact us today to learn how we can help your city.

If you found this article useful, then you’ll probably also like my books City On A Hill and The Devil’s In The Details. Click on the titles below to learn more.

City On A Hill: A Book About Cities and How to Make Them Better

– The Devil’s In the Details: Things that Challenge City Government and the Language of Development.

What Challenges Do Restaurants Face In The New Year?

2019 is shaping up to be a challenging year for the restaurant industry. For many restaurants, last year was marked by weak customer traffic and stagnant sales. Rising food and labor costs, as well as changing customer demands, indicated this year isn’t going to be much easier.

It’s not all bad news, though. Restaurant stocks are doing better than the broader market. Plus, as President Trump’s tax cut starts to reach customers they’ll have more money to spend at restaurants.

Even though there’s some good news, you’ll still want to be ready for the struggles facing restaurants in the new year. Keep reading to learn about four big challenges restaurants should prepare for in the year ahead.

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Optimizing Delivery and Packaging

More and more Americans want take-out options or food delivered right to their door. That means extra work and planning for restaurants. It can also involve costly technology investments.

Restaurants who want to offer delivery need a way to get food to customers quickly and without losing any of the quality. For some, this means investing in new product packaging to keep food warm but also well-ventilated so things like fries or pancakes don’t get soggy. For others, it means investing in more catering vans or partnering with a food delivery service like Uber Eats or GrubHub Inc.

Leveraging Customer Data

Online, take-out, and delivery orders result in a wealth of customer data. Leveraging this data is key to crafting marketing initiatives that bring customers back for more food.

Unfortunately, it’s not always easy for restaurants to access this data. Restaurants that partner with a third-party delivery service might find themselves in a battle with their delivery company over who owns this information. To get around this, Pizza Hut owner Yum! Brands Inc. invested in GrubHub last year so they have access to data from both their restaurants and the delivery service.

Dealing With Food Inflation

The time of cashing-in on inexpensive food ingredients may be drawing to a close. Bob Derrington, an analyst at Telsey Advisory Group, estimates that average food costs in 2019 could go up about 5.4 percent. There’s an especially good chance that beef, chicken, and cheese will be more expensive.

It’s tempting to raise prices to cover the increasing costs of food, but restaurants have to be careful of that too. Bob Goldin, a partner at food-service consultant Pentallect Inc, says that “Restaurant pricing is starting to be an inhibitor to the industry for growth.” You don’t want to lose money on your food, but you also don’t want to drive customers away with rising prices. It’s a difficult balance.

Working With Labor Inflation

Unemployment is low, which means restaurants have to work harder to attract employees. Higher wages, minimum-pay hikes, and investments in employee benefits all put added financial pressure on restaurants.

Some companies deal with the labor shortage by offering bonuses or freebies to attract workers. Others are making things easier for kitchen staff so they can get by with a smaller group of workers. The approach you take is going to depend on the specific demands of your restaurant.


If you found this article useful, then you might also like my books City On A Hill and The Devil’s In The Details. Click on the titles below to learn more.