Wednesday, July 24, 2024

Lack of involvement could hinder retail opportunities

by David Rockett

How would you like to see a Raising Canes, Starbucks, TJ Maxx, or other retailer located in Minden? All of these, and several more are viable prospects, according to a report presented Nov. 19 by Minden Economic Development Director James Graham, Webster Parish Tourism Director Serena Gray, Greater Minden Chamber of Commerce President/CEO Stephanie Barnette, and Minden Main Street Director Mahala Hutto.

These four, representing their individual entities took part in a program called, Retail Academy hosted by Retail Strategies of Birmingham, Ala. Retail Strategies is a consulting and recruiting organization, aimed at locating retailers in communities.

The presentation, which has been planned for weeks, was only modestly attended. In fact, Minden Mayor Terry Gardner was the only elected official in the room. 

Attendees learned quite a bit about the Minden trade area, both good and bad. While there is definitely room for improvement in some sectors, our community is absolutely ready for additional businesses. 

A shock to most, attendees learned that Minden’s trade area loses more than $200 million in sales per year to outside markets. One third of that “leakage” is in building materials and garden equipment stores, and food and beverage stores.

Without getting into the “weeds” of the data, it is clear that Minden could see some very positive economic growth in the retail sector if we make it a priority.

David Specht

This growth isn’t going to magically happen. It will take a coordinated effort by many, both in the public sector and the private sector. From landowners to those who handle zoning and infrastructure, attracting retail businesses must be a priority.

However, this isn’t just about bringing new businesses to town. The “leakage” can also be addressed by many who are already doing business here. If there is a need for more building materials and garden equipment stores, then there is an opportunity for those that already serve those customers. 

As exciting as the prospect for a growing retail sector appears to be, the lack of involvement by community leaders was equally disheartening. The handful of people who attended the meeting at Northwest Louisiana Technical Community College were very engaged and ready to go to work. There just needed to be many more people in the room.

Speculators can come up with a host of reasons for the lackluster attendance. Quite frankly, I don’t care. This mission is important, period.

We prove we can come together for things we deem important. The collaborative efforts of the community to bring our college to community college status is proof of that. The way we will come together for the children of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital Super Bowl weekend is further proof.

If we can work together for those good things, then this good thing should be a no-brainer. Many in our community missed their opportunity. I challenge you not to miss another.

David Specht | President of Specht Newspapers, Inc. and owner of BIZ. Magazine

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