With the arrival of 2016, the city of Desloge has begun the second year of its three-year contract with Retail Strategies, a commercial real estate company that focuses on retail project leasing and retailer recruitment, as well as municipal consulting, development and redevelopment.
City Administrator Greg Camp believes the strategic partnership between the city and the Birmingham, Alabama-based company has already begun paving the way for future retail growth in the municipality of around 5,000 residents.
“Although the city signed its agreement with Retail Strategies at the end of 2014, the deliverables as far as the market research and moving forward, that was all basically within 2015,” Camp said. “It was at the beginning of last year that we started to see some of that market data come back to us. This has been an illuminating process to find out about our demographics and our market gaps — one, getting up on the lingo of the industry and, two, finding out about some very specific information regarding our community and the surrounding area.”
One of the most important tasks the board of aldermen gave Retail Strategies was for it to get the city’s name out at both regional and national trade shows in hopes of grabbing the interest of retailers who might be interested in placing their business in Desloge. To determine which retailers to target at trade shows, Retail Strategies focused on the city’s greatest market gap — and it took Camp by surprise.
“I think anytime people think about Desloge, if you talk to the residents, the first thing they jump on is that they’d like to see a sit-down restaurant here in the community,” he said. “We’ve always seen that as kind of being a gap in our community as far as a style of business that’s missing. But then the market gap that came back from the data and the research was a full-service grocery store. That’s our biggest gap in our market.
“That’s something you don’t even think about because there’s a number of grocery stores in the area — and obviously the Walmart Supercenter has a full service grocery — but there’s, I guess, a lot of folks that are being underserved as far as that particular segment. That’s something that we’ve been kind of focused on working with Retail Strategies. Certainly in the second half of 2015, that was one of our areas of focus with them as we moved forward with that information we got back.”
As the new year begins, Camp is hopeful about the future as economic indicators for the city are looking up.
“I think one of the things we’ve seen is that the retail market in general has swung back into more of a comfort zone, at least as far as from a tax revenue generation standpoint,” he said. “We are working to expand that. We want to take what we have and build upon it so that we can continue to offer the same level of service that we’ve offered to our residents in years past. We’ve done that, I think, through some strategic belt-tightening and things of that sort.
“Bringing new business into town is important. I think we’re encouraged by and happy about having Lix Frozen Custard in town and then there’s the new Desloge River Mart that is going in at the former 7-Eleven location. We’re also looking forward to developing commercial properties that either the city is working on in conjunction with property owners or in the case where the city recently purchased four properties along Desloge Drive that we would love to market.”
Camp sees the new year as a time for the city of Desloge to keep advancing forward as it continues making strategic decisions to keep the municipality targeted for growth.
“There’s a lot of projects we have scheduled for 2016, some projects we finished in 2015,” he said. “More than anything else, 2016 will be a continuation. The timeline keeps on moving. I can look back at things we started in 2014 and continued in 2015 and they will just keep going into 2016. We’re just trying to make steady progress, whether on an individual project or building upon the community as a whole. I think that always has been and always will be our approach.”
“We’re just trying to make steady progress, whether on an individual project or building upon the community as a whole.” — Greg Camp, city administrator
Kevin Jenkins is a reporter for the Daily Journal and can be reached at 573-518-3614 or firstname.lastname@example.org