What This Town Needs Is A …

Walmart, department store or anything but another dollar store! How many times have you had this conversation with someone, overheard others saying this or read the ranting on a number of Facebook group pages. I cannot count the number of times that I have heard these comments and truthfully, before I attended the Georgia Academy for Economic Development, I know that I said some of the same things.

Being employed by the Berrien County Chamber of Commerce has also helped me to understand how hard it is to get a business or industry to locate within our county. We simply do not have a magic wand that we can wave and conjure up any business, industry or restaurant we desire. No matter how much we would like to have a particular business locate within our county, it all boils down to demographics and foot traffic.

What is demographics as it applies to Economic Development?  Simply, demographics are the statistics that a business or industry look at before deciding to locate in a community. There are many forms of demographics and some varies from business to business. However, a few of the most common demographics are age, gender, income, race, education, ethnic origin, household size, employability of workforce, population and foot traffic. Some companies may look at other statistics as well.   These statistics are easily accessible through the United States Census Bureau.

Let’s take a closer look at some of these demographics. Age demographics are broken down in ranges such as 18 to 24; 25 to 34; 35 to 54; and 55 years and over. People in these ranges will have different values to a business. Each age group will prefer certain products or services. Income may also be divided into groups by lower, lower middle, middle and upper class. Education statistics will assist a business or company learn about the employability of the workforce. Population trends also indicate whether or not their particular business can be sustained or whether or not there are enough customers within the community to support the products or services provided. Foot traffic means the amount of business that established businesses in the community generate.

If the population does not support the businesses already in the community, businesses may be wary of locating in that area. Household size is important to companies that provide children’s clothing or children’s meals.  Last year we sent information packets to over 100 companies or businesses with demographic markers matching Berrien County demographics. In addition, Crissy Staley, Berrien County Chamber of Commerce Executive Director has attended a number of retail conventions to meet with various retail businesses to sell our county to them. However, it does not matter how many meetings you attend and potential retailers you visit or send information packets if the demographics don’t match up, the business is probably not coming to Berrien County.

Let’s take a walk back in time. For years, we had B.C. Moore’s located on the Courthouse Square. For whatever reason, B.C. Moore’s sold to Stage Stores Inc., located in Houston, Texas and the name was changed to Peebles. Stage Stores, Inc. eventually closed the store. They also bought out B.C. Moore’s in Adel, changed the name to Peebles and eventually to Goody’s. This store is still in operation in Adel. The demographics Stage Stores Inc. require is a population of 15,000 within five miles and $35,000 as the average household income. The City of Nashville is approximately 5000. Berrien County’s population is 19,300 which includes the 5000 residents of Nashville. The median income of the county according to 2016 statistics is $36,152. We do not have 15,000 residents living within the 5 mile radius of Nashville which is where the store would probably want to locate.  So until our population grows and our demographics change, it is vital that we shop locally and support the businesses we have basically increasing our foot traffic impact.

Speaking of foot traffic, let’s take a look at the local sales tax revenues for the month of January. Our Local Option Sales Tax (LOST) revenues for January totaled $74,960.11 and the Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) totaled $108,571.65. The Education Local Option Sales Tax (ELOST) totaled $109.895.13. LOST revenues were down from December by $3,552.65 and SPLOST was down from December by $5228.11.

January is usually a slow month for retail.  In the months ahead, let’s support our local businesses – Buy Berrien!