Coastal Electric Cooperative and the Development Authority of Bryan County hosted area officials for a retail development program Feb. 15 at the Richmond Hill City Center.
Groups and government bodies represented included the city of Richmond Hill, the city of Pembroke, Bryan County, North Bryan Chamber of Commerce and Richmond Hill Chamber of Commerce.
Jim O’Bryan, retail and community development manager for Georgia Electric Member Cooperative, gave a presentation on successful practices for communities to attract retail development to their communities.
Coastal Electric’s Mark Bolton described the Bryan County economy as being much like an old leaky barrel. Every time we drive to Savannah to shop or eat-out, he said, some of the county’s wealth leaks from the barrel.
“It is important that we create and maintain a favorable business environment for our local merchants so we can capture and keep those dollars within our community,” Bolton said.
Discussion items in the program included what retailers look for in a community, best practices and redevelopment.
“Everyone wants to see their favorite chain restaurant or store close by, but the reality is those restaurants look for very specific traffic counts and population requirements within a defined trade area before they will consider building a facility,” Bolton said.
“Bryan County and Richmond Hill is beginning to show up on the radar screen of some of the commercial-site developers. As more jobs and rooftops come into the community, we can expect to see more of the restaurants and business that people currently drive to Savannah to find.”
The Development Authority of Bryan County leads retail marketing efforts for the county and its municipalities. According to the Development Authority, in the past few years, Bryan County has achieved record retail sales, and overall retail sales have grown by 45 percent since 2004.
Estimates showed, however, that Bryan County citizens contribute more than $41 million in sales-tax collections in other counties.
“Our goal with this program is to educate our community leadership on what it takes to attract the retailers into our community,” DABC Executive Director F. J. “Josh” Fenn said. “Though we have made very positive gains in the amount of commerce staying in the county, we must continue to work so our citizens have the retail and dining choices they desire so they do not have to leave our community.
“We appreciate the continued support of Georgia EMC and Coastal EMC in these efforts. This program has helped our leadership see what we can obtain in the future and how we get there.”
Georgia EMC is credited by the Development Authority for assisting in its retail-marketing efforts. Assistance has included training, development of marketing materials and booth space at International Council of Shopping Centers events.
“We are very excited to have this program and training for our council, staff and community partners,” said Richmond Hill Mayor Harold Fowler. “We are always looking for ways to improve our community for our citizens, and with the help of Coastal and Georgia EMC, we hope to improve the retail opportunities for our citizens.”