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A mixed eco devo bag
Council split on biz recruiter, strategic plan consultant
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Traffic packs Great Bend’s 10th Street. The City Council Monday night discussed contracting with consultants to recruit businesses and craft a strategic plan.

Efforts to arrive at a vision for the future of Great Bend met with mixed fates from a divided City Council Monday night as it weighed hiring consultants to examine retail and strategic possibilities.

Tabled until the second January meeting was a contract with Retail Strategies for $50,000 per year for three years to handle retail recruitment. Approved was a contract with the Austin Peters Group for strategic planning at a cost of $10,867.50. 

An additional $1,200 agreement with APG for council orientation failed.

Retail development services

In an effort to take a “proactive approach to retail recruitment,” the city sought proposals for a consultant to assist with retail development and recruitment, Francis said. Francis and Chamber of Commerce President Jan Peters narrowed it down to two, and picked Birmingham, Ala.-based Retail Strategies.

“Two firms were similar in their approach and services offered,” Francis said. However, he recommended RE.

“I have experience with them in Coffeyville,” he said. “I know their work to be excellent and they deliver on what the promise. The firm will act as an extension of our economic development team.”     

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.

“We don’t want to cannibalize current businesses,” he said. They just want to augment what is already available.

A preliminary analysis identified a 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 will be a real estate analysis, community input, the development of a retail strategy, and the establishing of a marketing guide and web platform that will be accessible to the public.

The firm will compile 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 is delivered in three months. “From that, we are going to grow,” Petro said.

“Retail Recruitment is not an event, it is a process,” Petro said. The plan will continually be updated as needed.

Both Francis and Petro said the purpose was not to conflict with current visioning efforts by the Great Bend Chamber of Commerce. Instead, it would offer more resources.

“I think it is really interesting and really fascinating,” Councilwoman Jolene Biggs said. “But, I have some concerns about the cost.”

The contract is for three years, but can be terminated at any time without penalty, Petro said.

“It is the right thing to do,” Peters said. “Sure it is expensive, but it is worth it in the end.”

Funding for the contract would come from a $100,000 incentive fund in the $1.4 million economic development fund. This is generated by the eco devo portion of the city sales tax.

But, Councilman Brock McPherson moved to table the matter until January when four new council members take their seats. “They need the opportunity to read it and offer their input.”

Vicki Barryman seconded the motion and it passed 5-3. McPherson, Barryman, Dan Heath, Joel Jackson and Andrew Erb voted to table, while Biggs, Cory Urban and Cory Zimmerman voted aginat the motion.

Strategic planning consulting

The city issued a request for proposal for a consultant to assist with the development of a three-year strategic plan as well as vision, mission and value statements, Francis said. This was sparked by the emphasis placed on planning during his job interview.

The Overland Park-based Austin Peters Group was the first choice recommended by majority of the selection committee and comes highly recommended by other organizations.

Making up the selection committee were Francis, City Clerk Shawna Schafer, City Attorney Bob Suelter and Human Resource Director Randy Keesling.

“This focuses on the city,” Francis said. In short, the proposal includes the following:

• The project team will work with the City Council and specified staff in the creation of the city’s three-Year strategic plan.

• APG’s team will interview council member and other city officials to learn perceptions of the most important issues and gather ideas.

• APG will hold stakeholder group meetings with five to seven groups to be defined in cooperation with city officials.  

• Conduct an online community survey.   

• Facilitate the council retreat, 

• Develop the city’s strategic plan and goals. 

It was Erb who brought up tabling the matter for the new council. This would be committing them to something they may not want to be involved in, he said.

But, Zimmerman objected. “We have two meetings left,” he said, noting the council can’t just stop functioning until January.

With the extra training not under consideration, the measure met with a 4-4 tie. Voting “yes” were Heath, Urban, Briggs and Zimmerman.

Mayor Joe Andrasek broke the stalemate by voting in favor of the study. Although he understood McPherson and Erb’s concerns, “I agree with Cory (Zimmerman). We can’t keep dragging things on.”

Great Bend City Council meeting at a glance

Here is a quick look at what the Great Bend City Council did Monday night:

• Tabled contracting with Retail Strategies for $50,000 to handle retail recruitment.

• Approved contracting with Austin Peters Group for strategic planning at a cost of $10,867.50 plus travel expenses.  

• Recognized city employees for their years of service to the city. Honored were employees with five, 10, 15, 20, 25, 30 and 40 years with the city.

• Approved 2019 pay resolution that was part of the compensation study that was completed for the city. This compensation structure was also approved as part of the 2019 budget.

• Heard an economic development report from Great Bend Chamber of Commerce President Jan Peters. She focused on the new state transportation plan now in the works and the Great Bend Better than Great visioning effort.

• Approved abatements at: 2014 Adams, motor vehicle nuisance, owned by ATB Enterprises LLC.; 1713 Tyler, motor vehicle nuisance, owned by Charles Drescher and Drescher Family Trust; 215 Plum, motor vehicle nuisance, owned by Salvador and Alejandre Garcia; and 216 Chestnut, motor vehicle nuisance, owned by Santiago Nunez.