The Retail Component
By: George Halford | 08.09.15

Cookeville, Putnam County and the Highlands region have certainly been on a historic economic “roll” during the past twelve months as we have collectively announced the creation of over 2,500 new manufacturing/ distribution jobs from both new and existing local industry.  We also have seen a dramatic increase in visitors and the attraction of upscale, Baby Boomer retirees who bring their respective wallets with them when they relocate.  In addition, both Tennessee Tech University and Cookeville Regional Medical Center are growing and developing exciting plans for the near future.  Indeed, it is a potential “season of plenty” for most of our citizens.

Our already strong, diversified local economy is beginning to hit on all cylinders as we collectively grow.

Much has been said in this column over time about these economic engines and workforce development as the foundation, but what about the retail sector?  In short, enlarging the retail economic development pie with complementary businesses is a critical component for all other aspects of economic development.  At this point, it must be pointed out that we already have a substantial retail base of excellent businesses.  Retail expansion is consistent with our overall goal. We want to give our citizens less reason to leave our region for goods and services, including retail purchases.  Think current “leakage” to Nashville! Mt. Juliet! Knoxville! – etc.

New, diversified retailers broaden the economic pie, expand the market area, create jobs themselves, and improve the quality of life for our citizens, potential new industries, visitors, etc.; and the new local sales tax dollars stay at home to build our roads, schools, and community.  The Japanese call the process the “circle of goodness,” and indeed it is just that!

So, why the substantial uptick in retail expansion and the growing interest by developers (plural) in our market?

The answer is fairly simple.  Typical retail expansion follows industrial job growth and visitor growth.  Economists tell us that for each industrial (primary) job created, seven additional (secondary) jobs are created in the service sector, which includes retail.

Retail expansion follows primary job creation and is based upon, in no certain order, things like demographics, psychographics, population density, drive times, number of roof tops, family incomes, etc.  It is data driven.

Recognizing the importance of a vibrant, growing retail sector, our Cookeville City Council has developed and implemented a retail attraction strategy by hiring a national consulting leader, The Retail Strategies Group, to assist in developing and implementing a targeted marketing plan.  Your Chamber is a partner in this endeavor, and we support the lead role of the City and Economic Development Coordinator, Melinda Keifer, as the point person in recruiting local, regional, and national developers and their retail clients to build new shopping facilities in our market.

Activity is very brisk, and developer interest is growing for our market!  It’s nice to be noticed on the scale that we have witnessed in the past few months!

Like our other projects, we expect to win!  Stay tuned!