HURON – Retail real estate experts hired a little more than a year ago to try to find prospective businesses that would fit the Huron community believe they may have an announcement by spring.
“What we really like to say we do is we’re the matchmaker,” Beth Miller, portfolio director for Birmingham, Ala.,-based Retail Strategies said Tuesday.
Miller and Kaitlyn Nako, retail development coordinator for the consulting firm, met with city commissioners and chamber board members and staff to provide an update on their progress and get feedback.
Retail Strategies is entering the second of a three-year contract to try to recruit businesses to Huron. In September, commissioners agreed to renew the city’s $13,300 share of the $40,000 annual contract.
Miller said the process takes time. “A normal deal is going to take 18 to 36 months,” she said. “But I would say definitely within the three-year period to have a deal signed is very reasonable and doable.
“I’d be pretty confident to say that some of the stuff that we’re working on we could have a deal signed by the spring or by the summer,” she said.
Miller and Nako shared some general information regarding types of retailers they have been in contact with, but due to the importance of confidentiality they couldn’t be specific.
Huron Chamber & Visitors Bureau President and Chief Executive Officer Laurie Shelton said Retail Strategies has been reaching out to prospects such as restaurants and clothing stores which might be a good fit for the market and keep shoppers from traveling to other communities.
Chamber officials have also been told many times that Huron residents would like to see dollar stores in town again, she said.
Some of the businesses that Retail Strategies has been talking with could be good prospects, she said.
“How far that goes we just have to wait to tell,” she said.
Miller said they educate national retailers about the fact that the Huron market pulls people in from a much greater distance than in a more densely populated area.
“Most retailers are going to say, ‘what’s the population in a five-minute drive time?’” she said. “Well, people are coming from a lot farther to eat and to shop in this part of the country.”
She said they tell prospective business owners that shoppers are driving in from as far away as 30 and 45 minutes away, and that their customers would come from a number of smaller communities and not just from Huron.
Retail Strategies, which represents more than 130 clients in 25 states, attends all of the major real estate conferences around the country every year. The largest one, which attracts some 35,000 people in the industry, is in Las Vegas each May.
“We’re representing you at every show and putting your name in front of as many people as we possibly can,” Miller said.
They also come to Huron once a year to see how the market has changed and to get updated information on the community. For example, communities inform them of potential regional businesses, like Huron’s new Ground Round.
“We always appreciate feedback from the community and that’s really when our process works best, is when we have a true partner,” Miller said. “You guys are the experts here. You know what would be a great fit. You guys live here day in and day out.”
She said their process also involves driving throughout the market, looking at properties, visiting with property owners and meeting with local brokers who may be listing property.
“The company as a whole really tries to follow retail trends, what’s going on in the industry as a whole,” Miller said.
“We definitely try to, in our outreach, make sure we’re reaching out to realistic people who are growing and who might be a real fit for the market,” she said.
Shelton said Miller and Nako were impressed with all the changes they saw this week since their last visit a year ago. That’s part of the story they can now tell prospective retailers. They stay in contact with people at the corporate level about a second or third franchise location, she said.
Some often respond that they “love the market, but are full this year, maybe in the next year or two,” Miller said.
Huron’s increasing sales tax revenues and the special events, such as the National Junior High Finals Rodeo, that the city has successfully recruited to town to help boost those numbers are also important to share with the consultants, Shelton said.
Miller said they have a fluid prospect list of about 120 retailers they stay in contact with on a regular basis.
“We’ve had a lot of good feedback over the past year,” she said. “There’s definite interest from a handful of people that we’re working with actively. What we try to do is match the right retailer with the right market. The whole process just takes time.”