The second time wasn’t the charm.
The Great Bend City Council Monday night rejected a proposal from Retail Strategies, the Birmingham, Ala.-based firm seeking to consult with the city on business retail development and recruitment.
The issue was first discussed at the Dec. 3 meeting. However, after much debate, it was tabled until the second meeting in January when the new council members would take their seats.
But, even with the new council in place, there were questions. Company representatives had visited Great Bend this week and met with new council members.
While most on the council saw value in the idea, many balked at the cost and the timing as the Great Bend Chamber of Commerce is already in the midst of its Great Bend Better than Great visioning effort.
“In an effort to take a proactive approach to retail recruitment, the city issued a request for proposals for a consultant to assist with retail development and recruitment,” said City Administrator Kendal Francis, who noted this topic was emphasized during his job interview. He presented the proposal from Retail Strategies.
The fee for Retail Strategies first year is $50,000. This is a one-year renewable agreement.
The funds would come from the city’s economic development budget. The budget totals over $1 million, but $100,000 is set aside for such a project.
“I am recommending Retail Strategies,” Francis said. He had experience with them in Coffeyville and saw what the firm can do.
Acting as an extension of the economic development team, RS would utilize local retail data to strategically target retailers who are a fit for this market. “What sets them apart from other firms is the depth of their team,” he said. “They will market Great Bend statewide, regionally and nationally.”
Additionally, the firm will provide, free of charge (not including travel), specialized training for any city staff/officials.
“We have to do something” to broaden the retail landscape, said new Councilman Dana Dawson, who moved to approve the plan. “We’ve been waiting for some big business to come in here for 30 years and it hasn’t happened.”
He said he’s been on the council before and seen consultants come and go. This company is different, he said.
Dawson was impressed by Retail Strategies and their comprehensive proposal. “They do it all,” he said.
“It’s a great pro-active approach,” fellow new Councilman Chad Somers said. But, he didn’t like the timing.
Also, he believes the city needs to focus on attracting industry. “Retail will follow,” he said, adding a lack of population and a qualified work force are other problems the community faces.
Somers believes this should be a team effort, with the chamber focusing on retail and the city on industry. However, the city should probably wait until the chamber has completed its project.
“Very frankly, I don’t think the people want this,” Councilman Brock McPherson said. “I’m opposed to it.”
“We were a destination to come shop,” Dawson argued. But that is no longer the case.
We can return to this, and such a study would be the first step, he said.
After Dawson moved to approve the plan, Councilman Dan Heath seconded the motion. But, they were the only two to vote for it.
At the December meeting, Matthew Petro, RE’s chief development officer, said the firm “bridges the gap between where you are and where you should be.” The idea is to match national and regional retailers with Great Bend to tell Great Bend’s story and find the right fit “to improve tax revenues, employment opportunities and the overall quality of life.”
Francis and Chamber of Commerce President Jan Peters narrowed the list of applicants down to two, and picked Retail Strategies. The city was seeking retail services to attract desired retail and restaurants to the community.
A preliminary analysis done by Retail Strategies identified a Great Bend trade area of 35,000-plus consumers that is projected to grow 2.2 percent over the next five years, the companies proposal reads. The consumers within the preliminary trade area have an average household income of $67,500-plus.
In addition to studying the markets size, it ran an analysis that shows the demand for new business in the community. The analysis showed 20-plus businesses who have located in similar communities to those within Great Bend but have not yet located in the Great Bend.
Also included would have been real estate analysis, community input, the development of a retail strategy, and the establishing of a marketing guide and web platform that would be accessible to the public.
The firm would have compiled the information to generate a retail strategy, a presentation outlining the trade area, real estate assets, retail opportunities, retail prospects and other information showcasing the community.
The strategy would have been ready in three months.
New council members take seats
Great Bend City Council meeting at a glance
Here is a quick look at what the Great Bend City Council did Monday night:
• Elected Cory Urban as president of the council. The council president is a serving council member elected by the council to serve in the temporary absence of the mayor.
New council members Jessica Milsap from the First Ward, Chad Somers from the Second Ward and Dana Dawson from the Third Ward, along with returning Councilman Brock McPherson from the Fourth Ward, were sworn last Monday at City Hall ceremony by City Clerk Shawna Schafer.
“Welcome new council members,” Mayor Joe Andrasek said. “Welcome to the team.”
This was their first meeting.
• Rejected a proposal from Retail Strategies for $50,000. In an effort to tackle retail recruitment, the city issued a request for proposals for a consultant to assist with retail development and recruitment. The fee for Retail Strategies first year is $50,000.
However, while most on the council saw value in the idea, many balked at the cost and the timing as the Chamber of Commerce is already in the midst of its Great Bend Better than Great visioning effort.
• Approved a resolution supporting a Housing Opportunities Inc. project. At the Jan. 7 meeting, the council OKed the request of HOI for assistance in the development of River Stone Court duplexes for senior citizens. HOI requested that this approval be set out in the form of a resolution to satisfy the requirements of state officials, City Attorney Robert Suelter said.
• Approved resolutions to add stop signs at Eighth and Grant and Eighth and McKinley.
• Heard a report from Community Coordinator Christina Hayes. She focused on the traffic counts from the Trail of Lights and other retail initiatives, as well as publicity the city has received.
• Heard a report from City Administrator Kendal Francis.
• Approved tree trimmer licenses for Royer Brothers Tree Service of Hutchinson and Ark Valley Tree Service of Larned.
• Designated the Great Bend Tribune as the official city newspaper.
• Approved abatements at: 212 Pine, accumulation of trash/refuse, owned by Jaime and Robert Barlow; and 200 Pine, accumulation of trash/refuse, owned by Jaime and Robert Barlow.
• Rejected a motion by Councilman Brock McPherson to move the council meetings from 6:30 p.m. to 7 p.m.