County OKs retail study, recruitment

Aug. 19, 2014 @ 12:23 PM

Caldwell County officials hope retail development will get a shot in the arm from hiring a firm to both study the local market and recruit potential retailers to the area.

Local officials have been working for years to make this study a reality, allocating funds in the two prior county budgets, but never finding an arrangement that worked until now, said Deborah Murray, executive director of the county’s Economic Development Commission.

The Caldwell County Board of Commissioners voted unanimously Monday night to approve $45,000 for the study and to sign a contract with Retail Coach, Inc.

The company will conduct an in-depth demographic study and a marketing campaign after the study is completed. The company will look at the demographics of the U.S. 321 corridor from Lenoir to Granite Falls, focusing particularly on the “mobile demographic,” or people who travel along the corridor but don’t stop. County economic officials want to recruit retailers that will give those travelers reasons to stop, growing the county’s tax base, Murray said.

The study will look at license plates of cars traveling the corridor and also identify Caldwell’s “leakage,” or money spent by county residents at out-of-county retail establishments, among other things, Murray said. It will take that information, find which retailers the corridor’s demographics can support, and reach out to them.

“(U.S. 321) is a great corridor that we have not fully developed,” Murray said.

She declined to talk about specific retailers to avoid giving any false hope that they would be coming, but the EDC has provided the company a list of wanted retailers.

Murray said the EDC conducted numerous interviews with the company and its customers and were more than satisfied with the results, including one customer that gave such a shining review, Murray said, “you’d think they’d been paid.”

Murray said the process will start as soon as the papers get signed, saying that she would like to see the study conducted soon, while football traffic for Appalachian State University football games and tourism to the mountains is in full force along the corridor.

She told the commissioners that they should be able to see the fruits of the agreement in as little as one or two years.