Community and economic development are an investment in the growth of a community and encompass a wide variety of initiatives from industrial and workforce recruitment to redevelopment retail corridors to improve the quality of life for citizens and many other activities in between.
This article is a conversation between Sarah Beth Stewart, vice president of business development for Retail Strategies, and Brian Snyder, president of 528 Financial Consulting.
1. Give us a brief overview of what your company does for communities.
Brian Snyder: Financial finances projects across the state of Indiana in assists economic development organizations (EDOs) and counties in funding deals. We take a holistic approach to economic development through engagement, marketing, real estate and financial lending services.
We also provide consulting agreements in development project finder fee agreements that connect the potential development project (new companies) to the City. When dealing with the formal development process and the development agreement for the project, we’ll advise on incentive packages if requested, grants on funding if available and represent the client at City Council meetings, planning commission meetings, etc that bring strong projects, deals, covering clients and helping cities grow.
Sarah Beth Stewart: Retail Strategies partners with localities, cities, towns, counties, and in regional statewide partnerships to aid in retail recruitment, downtown revitalization and development.
2. Talk about your company’s approach to community and economic development.
Brian: In a growth aspect, we have come up with the idea is to “Meet in the Middle”. Depending on what a community needs, if they can’t get something solved we’ll figure out a way to connect the city to a company that can help fill the gap.
For instance, if a city has a growing workforce and industry but housing isn’t readily available, 528 Financial will come in and build a development for housing. A new company can’t locate in a market without places to live. We have been able to cover single family homes, multi-unit, and townhomes. Ultimately, I’ll act as a connector to help solve problems in communities.
Sarah Beth: Along the same lines, meeting a community where they are. Sometimes its hospitality or retail. We really try to understand what the opportunity is within a community – be it retail or restaurant dollars leaving the community or is it downtown that has numerous vacancies – and help a community to capitalize on those opportunities.
Most recently, we have been aiding small businesses. How do small businesses withing a community need help and how can the city step in to provide that help?
As consumers and markets change, we keep up with those trends and if there are retail closures, we work to fill that gap.
At the end of the day, we want to give the constituents places to shop and dine to help enhance that quality of life.
3. What is one thing you wish city leaders understood about community and economic development?
Brian: One thing I wish community leaders understood – some do and some don’t – is what could be done with infrastructure, what can be provided in municipal bonds for a large project, what can be done from a grant aspect. Lastly, what they’ve thought they can bring to their city, but what have they not thought of.
I also wish they understood the value of using marketing data on the community with total city area info, with website, podcast interviews and providing the reasons as to why new people, and new companies, should come to that community.
Sarah Beth: One thing I would want them to know is that communities have to approach economic development as if it’s everything. Cities can’t just focus on one part of economic development but have to focus on all levels.
Retail follows rooftops, you can’t only focus on rooftops. A one stop approach isn’t going to best serve the community. Implementing those market studies and plans that cities pay for is the is the most critical component.
Brian: Another thing I’d like to add for city leaders to educate city leaders on is to think about the tax revenue base as a whole. New employees come in, they have families.
Guess what? Their children have to go to school. It raises the amount in income to the school system per child and in family, tax revenue rises due to new people investing in the community loving to live there!
If cities have an incentive or a tax abatement, that helps the corporation in establishing in revenue stream in early not paying taxes for a few years and in financing helps in company revenue stream and costs, but you still have people paying taxes on their home, school tax, water, sewer, gas, electric etc.
4. We always hear that retail follows roof tops, but what really comes first? The chicken or the egg?
Brian: That’s where the degree of difficulty comes in – you just don’t know what comes first the chicken OR the egg.
The answers is, it depends. We come in and bring a development company and make breakfast. Housing can be more important first, but if you can’t bring development the other doesn’t matter.
Sarah Beth: If you don’t have that retail sales tax base, how do you pay your teachers? How do you pay your police? We’ll talk to a retailer and they’ll say, “well the rooftops aren’t there.”
Sometimes we’ll talk to an industrial company and they’ll say, “well there isn’t qualify of life because there is a lack of retail and restaurants.”
That’s why having a multi-pronged approach is so important because its all interconnected and so much that goes into each component.
5. Public-private partnerships are extremely important in economic development. Talk about an example where you’ve seen a successful partnership.
Brian: Elwood, Indiana dropped down in population in the past do to industrial companies leaving and other businesses in a horrific inflation period in the past, but are now in a regrowth mode. With ELSA and Red Gold having facilities there and expanding, they needed housing. We looked at ingress and egress patterns and Red Gold had a lot of employees commuting 30 minutes to and from work each day.
I spoke with the Mayor of Elwood to discuss housing opportunities and new development projects. We knew DR Horton wouldn’t come to the community without enough infrastructure money up front. Our company was able to bring the housing/multi-family developer to the table with the city and together they could make the economics work for a new housing development and apartment complex and a town home duplex area development.
That took about two years from start to finish, but at the end of the day it was a public private partnership that made it come to fruition. It makes a HUGE community new nice impact!
Sarah Beth: One of my favorite examples is our client Cookeville, Tennessee. They were a finalist for a huge industrial company and when the CEO visited and toured multiple markets. The CEO was concerned that there weren’t enough retail and restaurant options for the families that would move to the community with the company.
Retail Strategies worked with the city and the state of Tennessee to redevelop a site that was anchored by Academy Sports and Publix to create those shopping and dining options through incentives created by the city.
Brian: In regards to relationships with Mayors, when they learn what 528 Consulting is doing and the connections it can bring forward, it’s not that they don’t have connections or development connections, you create a trustworthy relationship and what you’ve tried to solve for them. Then they come to you when they have another need or development. It’s all about timing and trustworthy smart development for the community.
When you go in from a “solving” mindset that adds a lot of value to a community.
Sarah Beth: Traditionally economic development pros are traditional – manufacturing and industrial and retail falls by the wayside. The Chamber usually focuses on existing business. Retail Strategies can act as an extension of a community’s team by focusing on retail but also helps in other areas. If it’s implementing a downtown plan, or aiding in growing small businesses, or providing data on the consumers when working on industrial recruitment, we can help.
To learn more about the community and retail economic development, schedule a call with our team.