Among the points from the panel discussion:
- The primary message from the panel discussion was that there are three main ingredients to attracting retail (in no particular order):
- Demographics - we'll go into this later in a future post.
- Market research - again more in a future post as it goes well with the prior point
- David Birdsall, CDO at Phillips Edison and panelist, was quoted as saying "I've been involved in very few projects in my 15 years that make financial sense on face" We have to find ways to provide financial incentives for retailers to locate in Fort Thomas. However, part of the problem is the lack of recognition by the city that this is our number one priority to create a vitality in the community that is not only currently missing but that most new residents expect. I have heard a few (minority voices) within the city administration that recognize this fact but we need more leadership and planning at the council level to create incentives that are not too costly and take away from providing basic services but are rich enough to truly incentivize those that are passionate about a particular business to invest their time and resources into a store-front.
- Steve Brandt, CEO of the brokerage firm Brandt Retail Group agreed that most demographics are digested rather quickly. So he posts a series of questions to community officials looking to attract specific retailers, such as: What is the community support for this tenant? He also asks about zoning regulations, utilities and architectural guidelines, because that can get expensive. Again this needs to be a component of a larger plan to attract retail to Fort Thomas. How to streamline the approval process, avoid making regulations overly restrictive to getting started generating revenue, and minimizing any fees that may be associated. This has been evident as the NKY skyline has grown over the past couple of decades for Cincinnati. They were overly restrictive and bureaucratic and watched investment walk away and across the river. Again, I will go into a more detailed discussion of some ways to make this happen effectively in Fort Thomas in a future post.
's recently launched "Shop 52" campaign to attract retail to not only downtown but to its 52 area neighborhoods. In the article they discussed how the plan called for 4 basic plans of action:
- Re-examined demographic figures to learn the local population is actually growing, not declining. While this is not a huge concern for Fort Thomas I do believe the demographics of our town and in relation to surrounding communities and the lack of retail provide an attractive option for their potential investment dollars.
- They assembled a retail task force. While I don't believe in over complicating the situation it shows a level of commitment to attracting retail and provides focused attention on getting retail investment.
- Began attending major retail and real estate trade shows. While chain stores is not exactly the type of retail we are trying to attract nor would it fit within the context of the community's needs we need to think about how we can cultivate retail business activity in Fort Thomas. This could include calling a summit of investors and interested retail business owners - possibly made up entirely of Fort Thomas residents but does not and should not be limited to that.
- Hired a marketing specialist. Again, I am not sure this is the best use of tax dollars for a town the size of Fort Thomas but we need focused attention on truly trying to attract the type and quality of retail expected in Fort Thomas.
- In the Business Courier article Steve Brandt indicates that the demographic and market data is important, "because in the end, cities and townships need to be clear about their dedication to a project. It's really important to the retailers to understand the commitment." Not to belittle the efforts that have been given by a few in the city administration but up to this point the city has really only given lip service to wanting retail but the city has made little to no concrete steps to develop retail. These could include any of the actions taken by the city of Cincinnati listed in the previous post or a whole host of other options which we will continue to cover on this site.
- "Birdsall added in a question-and-answer session, do not forget about the local offerings. There are only so many national chains out there, and many of the best opportunities - such as Boca and Via Vite restaurants - were raised right here in
. It is important to make risk-free opportunities for them as well, he said. We need to incubate and develop our own local retail." This quote pretty much sums it all up. We must find ways to provide incentives for the right types of retail to open in Fort Thomas to create the type of dynamic community we all desire.