Brundidge reviews retail plan

Published 8:01 am Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Where do we go from here?

Wiley Blankenship, director Troy University Center for International Business and Economic Development, suggested that the City of Brundidge might consider designating one person or one group to spearhead the effort to bring more people to Brundidge and then have the necessary information to direct them to places of business and/or interest while they are in town.

The retail marketing survey done by the Troy University Economic Development Center revealed that tourists/travelers are stopping in Brundidge to, at least, by gas for their vehicles.

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Blankenship said that gas stations in the Brundidge area are selling 6.7 times more gas than would be expected for a town its size and with the number of local gas stations.

That’s the good news but on the down side, Blankenship said that opportunities to attract fast food chain restaurants are not as promising because potential earnings of $1million wouldn’t be enough to bring a fast-food restaurant to town.

The trade area in Brundidge is limited so Blankenship said ways to get people to stop and shop need to be found.

“What are you selling now and what are you going to sell that would bring people to Brundidge and allow your businesses to capture more dollars that are going up and down the road?” he said. “The traffic on the (bypass) used to be seasonal but not any more. There are travelers up and down the road year around and the assumption would be that there would be ways to capture more of those dollars.”

Blankenship mentioned that the Wal-Mart Distribution Center, with the right package, offers opportunities to bring more money into Brundidge.

Vicki Dickert, owner of The Marketplace, which is basically an antique mall, said that customers come into her shop often asking about places to eat and shopping opportunities in Brundidge.

“I have a lot of truckers, who park their rigs in the parking lot next to my shop, that come in looking for some place to go and something to do while they are waiting to load or unload at the distribution center,” Dickert said. “We don’t have anything to publicize what we do have. A map of the area would be helpful.”

Blankenship suggested that an electronic board with information about the city would be helpful in attracting travelers to the downtown area.

A man who didn’t identify himself said that unless the stores are open, it’s rather useless to bring people into the downtown area.

“Brundidge is dead on Saturdays and Thursday afternoons,” he said.

Blankenship’s response was “Closed or dead?”

The reply was “closed and dead.”

Blankenship said Brundidge is no different from many other small towns that are having difficulties maintaining their retail businesses.

A large percentage of the city’s population makes less than $24,000 a year so the business that the retail stores have now is about the amount of business they can expect in the near future, Blankenship said.

“Communication seems to be a problem,” he said. “You have to communicate what you have.”

He suggested that the area might come together with a marketing program that would be effective in bringing more dollars to the area and capturing them in a variety of ways and places.

“What you need is a plan and someone to drive the plan,” he said. “Somebody’s got to be in charge. The plan needs a captain. And, the plan needs to include the city’s strengths and weaknesses. The best ideas for the plan will come from the people right here.”

Blankenship said the Troy University Center for International Business and Economic Development will continue to work with the Brundidge as it moves forward in an effort to develop a plan for the city’s retail business community.

Britt Thomas, city manager, said that, earlier Tuesday afternoon, he received a draft of the comprehensive strategic plan that was developed by the South Central Development Council earlier and it will be made available to be used in the development of a retail-marketing plan for the city.

In other business, Thomas presented an overview of the city’s financials through August 31.

“This represented 92 percent of the year and our local revenue is at 98 percent,” Thomas said. “The state revenue is at 86 percent and the federal is at 68 percent and most of that is because of the library annex project. That will change in September.”

Thomas said the basic general fund revenue is at 80 percent and the expenditures mirror the revenue at 80 percent.

Special revenue is at 82 percent and that is based on 10 months because those figures are reported in arrears.

“The utility fund revenue is 88 percent of the budge and expenditures are at 84 percent,” Thomas said. “So, we are on track for where we want to be at the year’s end.”