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City targets retail growth: Council, chamber team up to hire professional recruiter

By Staff
Mitch Freeman Madison County Record
In conjunction with the Madison Chamber of Commerce, the city of Madison has agreed to a comprehensive program that will focus on recruiting retail businesses.
According to the agreement, the chamber will hire a professional retail recruiter, compile retail and commercial information that is pertinent to developers, assess current retail and commercial sites, develop a growth infrastructure model and implement an advisory board with public and private representation to support the retail recruitment program.
MCC President Ray Bellenfant and MCC Managing Director Sallie Wagner proposed the agreement to the city council at its regular May 12 meeting.
After the proposal was approved, the chamber requested $50,000 to fund the retail recruitment program for the remainder of this fiscal year.
According to Wagner, about half of the $50,000 will pay a consulting firm to assist the chamber in hiring a permanent retail recruiter and the other half will pay for the retail recruiter.
Wagner said that consultant Wiley Blankenship of Funding Solutions will be contracted for three to four months. The retail recruiter will work on behalf of the city through the chamber.
The public/private advisory board will be made up of city council representation, commercial development and chamber representation. The advisory board will oversee the recruitment program.
There is no doubt among city leaders that a retail recruiter is needed for Madison because the city relies heavily upon commercial sales tax revenue.
"We keep getting beat up when we try to draw-in business," city council member Larry Vannoy said. "This is a visionary approach to try to tackle this issue."
According to the chamber representatives, salary and expenses for the retail recruiter are expected to range from $35,000 -$50,000 yearly.
The cost of the consultant is an up-front cost that will go away by the end of this fiscal year.
The retail recruiter will be hired on a 12-month contract that is performance based, rather than being hired in as a city employee.
The retail recruiter position will be expected to pay for itself, council member Cynthia McCollum said.
Wagner said the chamber executive board will establish the advisory committee within a couple of weeks and the search for the retail recruiter will begin as soon as the chamber receives the signed agreement from the mayor.
"We are very excited. This is a positive for the community. The chamber has been working on this for a couple years," Wagner said.
According to Madison city council member Bob Wagner, there are enough gas stations, grocery stores and fast food restaurants here.
"We want to get some national restaurant chains like Red Lobster, Outback and Longhorn steak houses in Madison," Wagner said.
Wagner, who has been promoting a retail recruiting program for quite a while, would also like to see national clothing store chains and more strip shopping malls.
He said that there is vacant commercial area on Madison Blvd. to County Line Road, on Hughes Road and along Old Madison Pike. He added that the Balch Road extension would also open up commercial area.
The County Line Road/I-565 interchange that the state is going to build will help accessibility to potential new commercial growth in that area, Wagner said.

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