The City of Dade City is considering the feasibility of hiring a retail consulting firm — as part of an effort to lure more commercial business and economic development within city limits.
City commissioners discussed the issue at length during a May 7 workshop, where they heard proposals from three professional firms for the creation of a retail market analysis and development plan.
Based on a request for proposal, the purpose of the project, in essence, is to better understand the retail landscape in the Dade City market, then have a firm develop a retail recruiting plan and broker potential prospects for the market.
The three firms interviewed were: Place Dynamics LLC, The Retail Coach, and Retail Management Associates.
The project, if followed through, would specifically address ways to improve and spur development along the U.S. 301 corridor, State Road 52, and the downtown area.
Cost estimates from the firms ranged from roughly about $60,000 to $90,000 for full implementation of the required scope of work; the city has not yet selected a firm.
The topic was broached again during a May 14 regular meeting, with some disagreement on how the city should proceed.
Commissioner Jim Shive suggested scheduling another workshop to have a more in-depth discussion on the matter, before deciding whether or not to select a retail consultant.
The commissioner said he heard from several constituents expressing concern on the amount of money that would be spent on a firm.
“I’m not opposed to moving forward,” he said, “but I think we need to have more discussion, that we just don’t need to jump in it headfirst, but that we’re looking at all angles.”
“It’s a lot of money, and I kind of want to know where it’s coming from,” he said.
Shive also pointed out another economic study has already been completed on the city by Melanie Romagnoli, of the Pasco County Office of Economic Growth, thereby perhaps reducing “a lot of the legwork” proposed by interviewed firms.
Shive, moreover, said the municipality might not have the necessary resident population to attract commercial businesses that a retail consulting firm would be tasked to target and recruit.
Proposing an alternate option to a retail consultant, Shive suggested the city look into bringing on staff, an economic development director or a CRA (Community Redevelopment Area) director, as well as generally investing more into the city’s downtown area.
Commissioner Scott Black, however, countered the city does indeed have the geographical portfolio to justify bringing aboard a retail consultant, which he said is imperative to better market the area and recruit businesses of all types.
Black acknowledged the city may not have the demographics that would attract big-box stores and major food chains, but certain other types of retail businesses instead.
“There’s a lot of retail that we have the numbers (of residents) for, we just don’t have anyone out there recruiting and bringing it,” Black said. “This retail recruitment element is what we need, and that’s what the beauty of what these types of firms do is — they welcome and determine what would succeed here and they bring it in.”
Black then stressed the need for such a firm, as a means to help the municipality grow, expand its tax base and bring better jobs to the area.
“It’s going to more than pay for itself after a few years,” Black said. “There are many opportunities that we have here for Dade City, but we don’t have this type of organization where (city staff) can go out and target businesses.”
“Now is the time to do it, not to put this off any longer,” he added.
Meanwhile, during the meeting’s public comment period, Dade City-based realtor and investor Larry Guilford said retail consultants oftentimes don’t provide much value to a city its size, or even up to cities with as many as 40,000 residents.
“It all comes to rooftops; we don’t have the rooftops,” Guilford said. “I’d love to put a Chick-Fil-A here, but if I don’t have certain rooftops out here, it’s a no-go; you have that in many cases.”
Guilford said a retail consultant may be worthwhile for Dade City to consider a few years from now, but not at this time.
“I don’t think you’ll get the bang for the buck,” Guilford noted.
Mayor Camille Hernandez said the city plans to continue the conversation at either another workshop or city commission meeting, to follow up with the retail firms and review reports from the Pasco County Office of Economic Growth.
“I think we’re doing our due diligence to make sure that we have all of the pieces together,” Hernandez said.
Published May 22, 2019