City council inks contract

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, February 4, 2015

The Andalusia City Council agreed Tuesday to enter into a three-year contract with Retail Strategies.

Retail Strategies is a national advisory firm focused on retail market analysis, strategic planning, retail recruitment and development. The company’s process includes extensive market analysis, including retail gap analysis, cataloging available properties and identifying prospects, then developing marketing materials with which it will help recruit prospects.

“We are already recognized as a retail hub for south central Alabama,” Mayor Earl Johnson said. “What we want to do is take that and build on it so that we expand our market area.”

The company’s initial work will be used to develop a three-year recruitment plan.

“Retail Strategies will be the company to go with us when we make presentations to entities,” Johnson said. “This is no longer a game of knocking on doors and saying, ‘Look at these pretty pictures of our city.’ You’ve got to fit your city into retailers’ strategic expansion plans. These folks are experts at doing that. We are not.”

Recruitment has become a science, he said.

“Data drives it. It doesn’t matter how pretty a town is, how nice you are, and whether you have a good school system. You’ve got to have a professional approach, or you don’t get in the front door.”

Once the company has completed its analysis, it will hold public meetings in Andalusia designed to provide information to locals who are interested in growing their own businesses, or investing in retail.

Council members who had heard a presentation from the company said they are most excited about what the study could mean for existing businesses.

“We appreciate the businesses that are here now,” Councilman Kennith Mount said. “We appreciate what you do for our community. This is another step to make sure you will be with us as we move along.”

Councilman Ralph Wells said, “This is not to cannibalize the business that’s already here. This is to grow the pie. That’s what we’re all about.”

The council entered a three-year contract with an option to renew. The contract is $50,000 for the first year, and $25,000 each for the following two.

“In the conversations we’ve had, they tell us, we’re much better positioned than a lot of other communities in this state,” Johnson said. “But we’ve got to have a professional approach to this. It’s something we can afford to do. The truth of the matter is, something we can’t afford to not do it.”

In other business, the council:

• Approved a resolution that is an agreement with the Alabama Department of Transportation to resurface U.S. Hwy. 84 and Hwy. 55 from River Falls Street to Choctaw Street.

• Authorized the mayor to pursue refinancing of its 2009 bond issue, a move estimated to save the city $365,000.