By Tim Farley
Piedmont’s city council will decide Monday if it wants to hire an economic development firm that specializes in attracting retail outlets.
The firm, Retail Attractions of Owasso, has worked with dozens of Oklahoma municipalities plus others in Missouri, Kansas and Texas. The proposed contract with Piedmont calls for the company to be paid $4,000 a month for its services. The company is owned by Rickey Hayes of Owasso.
Piedmont’s city council has made retail development one of its top priorities so the city can maintain its infrastructure, including streets and roads, water and sewer.
City Manager Jason Orr said increasing the sales tax base should be the number one concern in Piedmont.
“It is imperative we stay ahead of the curve concerning economic development in the area,” he said. “If businesses locate along the Expressway just south of Piedmont city limits, we will forever lose that opportunity for them to build here and establish a much-needed sales tax base.”
Without more sales tax revenue, city streets and other infrastructure will continue to deteriorate, he said.
“Our lone option is to become proactive and get aggressive sooner rather than later,” Orr said.
Bringing in an experienced out-of-town retail development firm is a better option than hiring a college graduate with no experience or business relationships to work from, the new city manager said.
“After reviewing the submitted resumes, it made absolutely no sense to me to hire a community development director fresh out of college with little to no real world experience. It will be far more beneficial for us to spend half as much to hire a reputable economic development firm with a proven track record of attracting new business,” Orr said.
The remaining money can be used to pay the city’s engineering firm to perform plat reviews and other engineering functions as needed, he said.
Councilman John Brown favors hiring Retail Attractions to get Piedmont’s name in front of retailers looking to expand.
“We need to get somebody out there talking about Piedmont. The chamber doesn’t do it. We are way bigger than a lot of cities that have more than we do. These retailers need to know we have the highest per capita income in the state,” he said.
Hayes worked as economic development director for Owasso before starting his company. During his time at Owasso, the city’s sales tax base more than tripled during his tenure. New commercial construction during his time there totaled more than six million square feet with over $250 million in total value.
Retail Attractions has worked with dozens of major retailers and restaurants including CVS, Kohl’s, Hampton Inn, Jimmy’s Egg, Advanced Auto Parts, Office Depot, KFC, Pier 1 Imports, Panera Bread, Ross Dress for Less and Best Buy.
Hayes declined to comment until after Monday’s council meeting.