Recruiting America's best retailers to metro Jackson

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Published: January 31,2005

In an effort to promote greater public sector participation in retail recruitment, the International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC) will host a luncheon and panel discussion on Thursday, February 3, at The University Club in downtown Jackson, beginning at 11:30 a.m.

Sponsored by Stirling Properties, Watkins Ludlam Winter & Stennis, The Mattiace Company and Yates Construction, “The Past, Present and Future of Retail in the Greater Jackson Market” retail outlook program will emphasize ways that public and private sectors can work together to produce successful projects that attract America’s best retailers to the metropolitan market. Elected city officials, real estate developers and members of the MetroJackson Chamber of Commerce, Mississippi Commercial Association of Realtors and ICSC are encouraged to attend.

“In the past, ICSC has been made up of real estate developers and owners, all on the private sector side,” explained Mississippi Development Authority’s Pat Werne, co-chair of the ICSC Southern Division Alliance. “Several years ago, they realized they needed to bring the public sector to the table and started hosting sessions to help the public sector understand how a retail project works, because they have traditionally recruited only industrial projects.”

The public sector philosophy has been to build a community and the retail will follow, said Werne.

“That’s probably true in obvious cases, but there are many retail opportunities that are not in the metro Jackson area,” she said. “You can’t miss what’s going on in Rankin County. Other areas, where they don’t have a real strong finger on the pulse of what’s going on, need to recruit that industry.”

A new study by the National Retail Federation Foundation and BearingPoint Inc., “Retail Horizons: Benchmarks for 2004, Forecasts for 2005,” revealed that 38% of the nation’s retailers plan to expand domestically in 2005. The third-annual study surveyed more than 300 retailers representing department, specialty, apparel, grocery and home center stores.

“Traditionally, what happens is the private sector will go into a local community, and public officials don’t know about it,” said Werne. “Maybe they needed the projects kept very confidential, which is understandable, so it doesn’t send up the price of real estate. The public sector can help with permitting, some communities have incentives, and are accustomed to dealing with confidential projects all along. It’s a learning process on both sides of the table.”

Covington, La.-based Stirling Properties’ Donna Taylor, program committee chair, said retailers are finding Central Mississippi “an untapped market.”

“At this program, we’d like to show how public and private partnerships can work better and more effectively and efficiently to bring in more retailers to the market, not only to the metropolitan downtown market but suburban areas as well,” she said. “Retailers are looking for creative avenues between public and private investors to bring them to the area.”

Bob Flowers of Mattiace Properties, chairman of the ICSC Mississippi State Government Relations Committee, said the program would hopefully give ICSC leaders “a better understanding of what the mayors and cities are looking for in the way of retail, what they think they can do to help attract retail to the area, and incentives available through their city government that would assist and encourage retailers and developers to get involved developing retail within their city limits.”

Madison real estate developer Mark Bounds, a member of ICSC and MCAR, said the program should serve to “at a minimum, have names and faces more familiar with each other. At the maximum, we do some new and exciting retail concepts for the metro area.”

The event is $25 in advance and $35 on-site. For more information, contact Ross Tucker at the MetroJackson Chamber of Commerce at (601) 948-7575.

Contact MBJ contributing writer Lynne W. Jeter at lwjeter@yahoo.com.

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