Smart growth depends on careful study

Published 12:00 am Thursday, March 30, 2006

Wal-Mart&8217;s impending move from Ferriday to Vidalia has created lots of buzz about the merits of the move &8212; and the incentives provided by Vidalia to seal the deal.

With a few exceptions, the relocation seems like a zero-sum gain. The shopping needs that will be served by the new Wal-Mart are largely already served in the market.

The taxes generated will most likely be shifted from one municipality to another. It seems unlikely that consumers will suddenly begin spending more than in the past, so the money has to come from somewhere.

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The relocation discussion brings up an interesting issue &8212; retail recruitment.

What&8217;s our area&8217;s approach for retail development? And how does it fit into our ongoing approach for &8220;industrial&8221; development? Too often, economic developers seem to focus on landing the &8220;big fish&8221; &8212; Nissan, Honda, Mercedes &8212; and seeking those is important. To be successful, we must find ways to create things here that are sold elsewhere in the state, country or world. That&8217;s key.

In that effort, however, we need intelligent retail development.

Smart retail growth requires studying our market, locating categories of businesses that are either non-existent or under-represented and go after those types of businesses. Filling gaps in our market will help keep money here. That would result in new money spent rather than simply swapping dollars with our neighbors.