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West Memphis retains business recruiter to grow retail sector


Brick & Mortar hired to grow city’s commercial district

West Memphis has hired its first ever business recruiter. City council authorized the mayor to enter an agreement with a Tupelo consulting firm to bring in chain retailers and restaurants into the city. Under the agreement with Brick & Mortar, the city paid $5,000 to retain the company and another $30,000 for each business agreeing to locate in the city.

Economic Development Project Manager Mallory Darby presented the details to city council for consideration. The manager said focus groups sessions that helped build the new long range city growth and development plan called GROW 2040 often centered on citizen desires new businesses and restaurant in the city, “Retail and restaurant development entered a lot of our conversations with focus group meetings,” said Darby. “We’ve also heard from hotel owners that their business clients and travel customers don’t come to West Memphis because there is no where to eat and shop.”

Darby delineated what the city gets with each new deal. An analysis of what the city is missing from its business and restaurant menu headed the list.

“They will provide a retail analysis and a gap analysis to provide a better understanding of our market for prospective businesses,” said Darby. “Then they will provide a list of 30 retailers. Once the first new business comes to city we will owe them $30,000.

Any additional business would be $35,000.”

Darby explained that if Brick & Mortar brought a slate of new businesses a new shopping center location, the fee would be capped after the first three.

The city felt the commission base was the best fit.

“We felt this was the best approach for us because it was performance based,” said Darby. “Every other contract we explored needed a much larger upfront fee. We feel this arrangement holds them accountable to us and the community.”

The economic development office teamed up with the Convention and Visitors Bureau to get retail and restaurant recruiters.

The CVB administers the tourism tax on hotel and restaurants. CVB Executive Director Jim Jackson said the tax would pay the $35,000 finders fee to the company for restaurants recruited to the city because eateries contribute to the tourism tax administered by Advertising and Promotions commission he administers.

“The A& P has agreed to pay the fee for any new restaurant that we currently do not have in the city, preferably a full service restaurant,” said Jackson.

“We feel very comfortable with that. The company is from Tupelo and very familiar with the area. The hoteliers will tell you their corporate customers opt for Southaven because of the dining options. We don’t have anything to equal it right here.”

Jackson said the agreement is annual, subject to the city’s redirection each year but the $5,000 initiating fee was a one time expense.

“Deals are contingent on a purchase agreement or long-term lease agreement for property in the city,” said Jackson.

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