Is our retail cart before the horse?

Published 12:05 am Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Natchez aldermen tonight plan to meet with a consultant group that aims to help towns recruit retailers to the area.

While that is well and good, we caution aldermen not to simply sign up for something hoping for a bag of magic beans that will suddenly make Natchez-Adams County more attractive to retailers.

Every local real estate expert has said, repeatedly, retailers want to be near a growing population of employed people. Period.

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In other words, our area’s two biggest economic challenges — a shrinking population and a lack of high-paying jobs — are also the biggest obstacles to greater retail growth in the area.

To focus on retail growth without first addressing the declining population and lack of highly paid jobs is a great example of putting the cart before the horse.

In areas of Mississippi where the population is increasing the economy is flourishing, retailers come without great recruiting efforts required.

Anyone who thinks about it a bit should be able to see the logic here. For a national retailer to want to locate in our community they must see a market for their goods and services and they’ll want that market to be growing, not shrinking.

We hope that the consultants will bring to the table some great ideas for the City of Natchez to consider.

Natchez could use some more expertise in retail efforts, but we also want city leaders to be cautious and ask lots of questions before blindly writing a big check to a consultant. We should have measurable, achievable goals and the consultant’s compensation should be tied in some way to the success or failure of the effort.

If we, as a community, focus on recruiting more jobs and retaining more residents, we would all be better off and our community would be excelling again.