Economic development studies initiated last fall are starting to bear fruit, Great Bend Economic Development Inc. President Sara Hayden told the City Council Monday night. Their purpose was to arm local officials with up-to-date information in the competitive world of eco devo and business recruiting.
“We are excited to get those done,” she said during her report to the council. “This is just another component, it’s another piece of the puzzle.”
Even though e-commerce has gone from 11% of retail to 16% during the COVID-19 pandemic as more people shop from home, “brick and mortar is still very, very viable and competitive, so we know that it’s going to be valuable for our community, and we want to make sure we invest our time in that as well.”
In November, the city council approved a proposal from Gruen and Gruen Associates for $9,500 and a proposal from Retail Strategies for $30,000 for a total cost of $39,500. These involve a data and strategy study for GBEC, with the money coming from the $1,534,638 balance in the city’s economic development fund.
Gruen and Gruen Associates of San Francisco, Calif., is providing a survey and business strategy for $9,500, and Retail Strategies of Birmingham, Ala., is providing an in-market workshop, market analysis, downtown strategic plan and retail academy for $30,000 for a total cost of $39,500.
Hayden first addressed the work being done by Retail Strategies. “That study will continue next month with a site visit. Following the site visit, they will present us with a one-, three- and a five-year plan.”
The firm offered a retail academy as a training component. Hayden, City Administrator Kendal Francis and Community Coordinator Christina Hayes took part in this opportunity.
“It was very beneficial for me personally,” Hayden said. “I feel like it’s given me a competitive edge to be able to present us to some of these different retailers. So I think it was well worth the money and well worth the time.”
Hayden has also received its data package from Retail Strategies. “This is a extensive data package. I’m very impressed with what we got. We definitely got our money’s worth.”
With this most current information, the company helped the city identify several companies that would be a good immediate fit. “So I will be taking those 10 companies and offering focused retail pitches. I’m hoping to have those out by the end of next week.”
This has been a partnership with property owners and brokers in the community to identify the correct properties to match the needs of these prospects.
As for Gruen and Gruen, its non-retail area businesses survey was sent out Jan. 7 to 91 businesses, she said. As of Monday night, just hours before the survey deadline, they had a 66% response rate and were hoping for 70%.
“The company was very happy with that,” she said. “They said normally they see a 45 to 50% response rate.”
“It looks like we’ve got some great feedback,” Hayden said. She thanked the businesses that took part.
With all the buzz around these studies, Hayden stressed traditional efforts continue. “We are not taking our focus away from recruiting manufacturing or other industry.”