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MBJ Special report: MDA numbers help with cities’ retail pitches

mississippi development authorityMississippi communities looking to land a big retailer such as Walmart or Target often give the Mississippi Development Authority a call.

That is where they will get the retail sales numbers for their area broken down to nearly a dozen categories. The numbers, through “pull-factor” calculations, also give an idea of whether the buyers live in the community or come from outside it to make the purchase.

The numbers, based on sales tax collections, can show retailers where their opportunities lie. Cities and counties eager for a major retailer to come in are advised to be as thorough as possible in the information they present, said Joy Foy, director of the MDA’s Asset Development Division.

“Communities who are working to recruit retail and build up their retail sector can track their progress by getting the three years comparison report that we also can provide to them – this report allows you to see at a glimpse if sales are improving,” she said.

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The yearly comparison analysis covers categories such as apparel & general merchandise, automotive, food & beverage, lumber & building materials, furniture & fixtures, miscellaneous retail, contracting, public utilities and recreation.

It also provides “pull factors” for specific localities and for categories of sales.

For example, a pull factor of “1” for Jackson reflects sales equivalent to all of the population of Jackson purchasing this product or service inside Jackson, Foy said.

“If the number is larger than 1, then the total population plus others are buying inside the city limits. Less than 1 means that people inside the city limits are purchasing those goods and services outside the city limits.”

Pull factors are just one of the things a community is going to have to show a retailer. “You’re going to have to show them your traffic counts and infrastructure,” Foy said.

Through the MDA, communities can find out which retailers are looking to expand and whom to pitch. The agency subscribes to a service that identifies the site selector specific retailers have for Mississippi. “This same service gives us daily listings of companies looking to expand – we get the name of the business, the area they are planning to expand into, the requirements needed to consider a site as desirable site,” Foy said.

Helping cities and counties learn the ropes of attracting retail is a major part of the job of Foy’s MDA division. “Our role is more educational and technical than anything else,” Foy said. “Whatever a community is trying to do, we try to find the resources to help them and bring them together” with the resources.

Often, the resource is a commercial real estate professional or consultant, she said. “Those are the people who have the connections with the site selectors.”


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