The study, by Pitney Bowes, would help determine how the right retail mix would benefit the community, why it matters, and how the “mom and pops” would fit into the picture.
“They would do a field study, assess major shopping concentrations, and define trade areas,” said Administrator Pat Bacon.
Council, said Bacon, “seems receptive to the idea.”
“It goes to council next Thursday. The study would start this fall,” she said.
“Basically, it will identify what are strong points are, and the areas we should be working on,” said Councilman Dave Gallaher, chairman of the Economic Development Committee. “That’s something that would have a huge impact on the city in trying to attract new businesses, and show businesses what we as a city need for services.”
A marketing study doesn’t always show what the community wants to see, cautioned Bacon.
“Our community may want a certain business, like Target, to come here. But a market study analysis may show that’s not what is needed. So they don’t always tell you what you want to hear, but what you need to hear and what is feasible,” said Bacon.
Heather Sayler, the city’s planning, zoning and economic development coordinator, agreed.
“It helps identify the needs of the community,” said Sayler, who proposed the analysis to the city.
“It will pinpoint trade areas,” said Sayler. “It’s not just Northwood residents that shop in the city, but the surrounding communities also shop here. For us, it’s going to be the east side of the river, including Oregon, Genoa, and Millbury, with Northwood in the middle. We might have more than one trade area, since Northwood is intersected by I-280 and I-75. Then they can figure out all the demographics of the trade area and other characteristics to try and see what retail will fit into our area.”
Oregon’s recent market analysis, also conducted by Pitney Bowes, overlaps some of the Northwood area, so Northwood’s study will be cheaper to do, she said.
Sayler recently contacted a developer to ask what he thought about a marketing analysis of the city. The developer replied by e-mail, saying how invaluable it would be, and how he would use the study over and over again.
“We could put the entire report online,” added Bacon. “The developer said the hits we get would be unreal. He recommended it widely. Market studies are used by developers continually. They’re thrilled when they see a community has done that.”
The report could be condensed into a marketing packet, and placed inside the city’s new brochures, said Sayler. “We can stick the summary sheet inside, so once we mail that to businesses, they would know our city is proactive by doing a market study. It makes us more attractive. It shows we’re doing something to help get businesses here.”
Mayor Mark Stoner’s support on the study was lukewarm, though he’d like more information before taking a position.
“I’d like to discuss it on council, see what we could glean out of that,” said Stoner. “We’re a city divided in two by the railroad tracks. Does that $30,000 include the entire city or just one side? There are different situations on both sides. Is someone living on the west side going to want to go to the east side to a restaurant and fight trains, or are they going to hop on I-75 and go to the Golden Triangle? I need to get more information on that.”
He was leaning toward supporting the study, he said.
“It would give us a good idea of what companies might be interested in coming to Northwood. If the Woodville Mall gets bought and gets revitalized, that might be something we could give to retailers to show the potential of people who might be interested in coming,” said Stoner. “Also, Pitney Bowes might have a list of clients who might be interested in coming to a city like ours.”
“I think in order to get people to believe in our city,” said Gallaher, “we have to believe in ourselves a little bit. We want to get this information now so we can send it out to possible businesses. When the economy picks up, people will take notice. We have to be willing to show what type of services and advantages there are to living in Northwood. You could have the Hope Diamond in your backyard, but if no one realizes it’s there, nobody’s going to appreciate it.”