Headlines Do Not Tell the Whole Story

Posted by Rickey Hayes on March 26, 2014 in Blog | No Comments

Written by
Rickey Hayes
Retail Attractions, LLC

In a recent story in the Tulsa World, the City of Broken Arrow touted its recent success in new business growth. Broken Arrow is truly becoming a world class city and should be proud of the accomplishments narrated by the newspaper. The inexperienced could read the article and think that this is a city that has it all together. I am proud of the retail growth and renewal that Broken Arrow is enjoying. But this recent growth is not something that happened overnight, in fact this growth is from seeds planted years ago by people who won’t get the credit they deserve. In fact the people who will get credit for this growth really didn’t have a thing to do with it. Now before you start shooting at me, let me tell you that Broken Arrow does have some very capable and talented folks working to create an environment for growth. Warren Unsicker, VP of Broken Arrow’s Economic Development Corporation is an experienced and hard working ED professional. Norm Stephens, the city’s economic development coordinator is also a talented and qualified practitioner and does a yeoman’s job of marketing the community. That being said, the “new” growth is not new at all. This retail was circling years ago. The movie theater deal mentioned in the article has been brewing since 2007 at least. The deal has been discussed with every suburb in the Tulsa metro. Congratulations to Broken Arrow for getting it done.

So what is causing the growth? The answer is very simple. This “new” growth is caused by the same things that cause private sector investment in every “growth” market. The three primary reasons are the same in every case; residential growth, developable real estate, and public incentives. For years Broken Arrow has led the Tulsa metro in new residential growth. This is not a “new” thing. The public infrastructure that has made this growth possible has been planned and constructed for years and years. Street and transportation infrastructure, sanitary sewer and storm water planning, and other public services were envisioned and developed many years ago by individuals, many of whom are not even in the public arena anymore.

Making retail deals happen used to be much harder to do in Broken Arrow. In fact, the city has overcome quite a bad reputation in development circles. Just a few short years ago, visionary folks like Phil Roland (who has invested millions trying to make Broken Arrow attractive to private sector investors), Mickey Thompson (who laid the ground work for all the development sites that are now in play) and many others had to fight city hall “tooth and toenail” to get anything done. Development criteria regulations were a moving target and city attorneys swore up and down that public incentives “were against the law”. There was even one scenario where a developer was promised a public / private partnership on a development site for help with public improvements. After doing their part, paying for engineering and design and building what he had promised, the city simply refused to honor their end of the deal. Fortunately, I guess all that has changed now, and that’s good for Broken Arrow and its citizens.

In the article, a leakage report was referenced. The city paid lots of money for the “new data”. Fact is they already had it. They received it in 2007. Along with the same message we preach to every community:if you desire retail you need three things: residential growth (consumers), developable land (sites), and public incentives. Retail Attractions doesn’t sell cities what they don’t need. We tell them the truth and advise them on making their community more attractive to investors. After all, retail growth is not rocket science.

Rickey Hayes is the principal of Retail Attractions, LLC, a firm dedicated to helping cities and developers successfully find retail sites, close deals and improve the quality of life for our client cities.

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