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Council gives nod to eco devo study
Project will collect data, suggest retail strategies
eco devo study pic
A woman sweeps leaves from in front of a downtown Great Bend business recently. The Great Bend City Council Monday night approved a data and strategy study for Great Bend Economic Development Inc. - photo by DALE HOGG Great Bend Tribune

If Great Bend hopes to become the destination shopping location envisioned by the newly minted Great Bend Economic Development Inc. and its President Sara Hayden, officials need to be armed with up-to-date information in the competitive world of eco devo and business recruiting.

To this end, the City Council Monday night 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.

The council met for the second time at the Events Center where recent remodeling work established Hayden’s office at the facility.

“Great Bend has a great opportunity in a rare time of great economic shift to purchase a strategic plan that provides us with the data and professional consultation that will allow us to focus our efforts and recruit more effectively,” Hayden said. “The two proposed companies will provide the insight for us to look at all sectors of business in the city as well as our programs and presentation to offer us a fully developed plan-of-action for executing the vision.”

These will enable Great Bend to be a competitive player in this time of major economic and geographic shifting within the nation, she said. Gruen and Gruen Associates of San Francisco, Calif., will provide a survey and business strategy for $9,500, and Retail Strategies of Birmingham, Ala., will provide a in-market workshop, market analysis, downtown strategic plan and retail academy for $30,000 for a total cost of $39,500.  

Why is this important? 

“Data is the key factor to understanding and creating our community identity to better target new industry,” Hayden said. Specific data and analytics are required by most companies before considering a new area for relocation. 

“Having the right information from all of our large in industrial businesses in town will allow us to recruit business that compliments what is already existing,” she said. The survey data will also give Hayden a comprehensive list as to what our current companies see as challenges, which will allow us the chance to retain business. 

“A high quality of life standard is crucial for any business considering relocation by targeting our downtown and creating a destination we will be improving our chances for recruiting efforts,” she said. “By creating a downtown destination, not only will this attract new business, but also it will attract more tourism to the community, increasing our sales tax collection and our guest tax collection.”

The retail academy will give economic development the knowledge to recruit more effectively, as well as credibility. 

“When speaking of data, understand this is up-to-date, in-depth data that you can’t find from a search,” Hayden said. “Please view this opportunity as the first step on the ladder to creating our vision of a booming economic future.”

The proposals

Gruen Gruen and Associates’s proposal will also outline potential “next steps” in the economic development research and business retention, expansion, and recruitment program formation and implementation, Hayden said.

In collaboration GBED, GG&A will gather the relevant data to create the most effective survey and complete this work prior to the Christmas Holiday. The survey should be set up to be distributed in the beginning of January. 

“Three weeks for responses should be adequate and then they would expect to complete the analysis and write up of the results and memorandum on next step within two weeks after the survey completion,”information from the firm noted.

As for Retail Strategies, it noted that downtown is the gathering place of the community “where citizens, consumers, and tourists embark to experience the unique character of our place, it’s values, and pace of life.’

Successful downtowns are positioned to serve as powerful catalysts for private investment and showpieces of public infrastructure improvements, the firm explained. Through an in-person Strategic Visioning Workshop, it will evaluate the five pillars of our downtown’s mix: Market analysis, design, tourism and promotion, economic vitality, and policy & administration, and provide a true road map to revitalization.

It will include real estate analysis, as well as looking at  connectivity and walkability, landscaping and street-scaping, public art and historic preservation. They will also examine parking, signage, business recruitment, filling vacancies, incentives and building codes/permits.

“The need for up-to-dater relevant-to-industry data is imperative to be competitive in an ever-changing market,” Hayden said. “By investing in vision, strategy and analytics now, we are setting ourselves up to welcome new business and therefore break the cycle of a declining population.”