“Behind the Scenes” Weekly Meeting Update 1 – NDDC Retail Strategies

Once again, another week goes by and I’m not sure where it went. I attended or participated in several meetings of various City and civic orgs this week, and I thought some of you would find this information both interesting and helpful.

On Tuesday, the NDDC had a meeting of the Retail Strategies group at the Grand, where they presented an overview of their Work Plan. The first slide presented the list of opportunities identified in the EDA’s Economic Development Plan, some of which are clearly within the purview of the NDDC’s:

Retail Support Strategies
Summary 1 – Economic Development Plan

Opportunity 1: Diversifying the Economic Base
1a: Land for Business Expansion
1b: Concentrate on Needs of Existing Businesses
1c: Implement a Targeted Recruitment Strategy
1d: Raise Awareness of Northfield within the Region
1e: Explore Options for Leveraging Existing Fiber Networks

Opportunity 2: Maintaining Northfield’s Quality of Place
2a: Maintain and Enhance the Existing Downtown
2b: Develop Coordinated Retail Strategy

2c: Redefine Northfield’s Relationship to its Neighbors

Opportunity 3: Attracting and Retaining Talent
3a: Increase Connections with Current and Former Students
3b: Continue to Engage the Leadership of the Colleges in Economic Development
3c: Increase the range of Housing Options
3d: Create Entrepreneurial and Innovative Start-Up Opportunities
3e: Take Steps to Integrate City’s Growing Latino Population


The other materials showed the phases of the NDDC work plan, the priority findings, and recommendations:

Retail Support Strategies
Summary 2 – The Three Phases of the Work Plan

1. Structuring the Process and Gathering Stakeholder Input
a. Identify Retail Support Organizations
b. Establish Task Force Meeting Schedule
c. Develop Strategy that Integrates Districts

2. Researching and Reporting on Potential Recruitment Prospects
a. Document Needs of Existing Retailers
b. Identify Potential Barriers to Development

c. Develop Retail Opportunity Target Markets

3. Linking Retail Promotion with Tourism Marketing
a. Inventory Local Attractions and Tourism Assets
b. Identify Opportunities for Additional Attractions and Assets
c. Increase Leverage from Events and Attractions


Retail Support Strategies
Summary 3 – Priority Findings

1. Two Districts [downtown and “uptown”] Add Up to the Whole Package
– You Can Get (almost) Anything You Want in Northfield

2. Look for Referral Opportunities
– If you don’t carry the product, direct them to the appropriate retailer

3. Generate Traffic, Market to Traffic, Tweak Generators
– Leveraging from events and promotions is an iterative effort

4. Increase Retail Leverage with Media
– Understand their needs, work collaboratively

5. Regular, Scheduled Meetings between Major Economic Players
– Chamber, NDDC, NEC, EDA

6. Streetscape Investment Should Leverage Retail Sales
– Investments should be more utilitarian

7. Northfield Must Commit to Greater Business-Friendliness
– Council, City, EDA, Chamber, NDDC, Retailers must make it a Priority


Retail Support Strategies
Summary 4 – Task Force Recommended Strategies

RETAILERS:
• Know how to access and use City and Media Resources
• Track zip codes and ask customers what brought them to the store
• Open at least one workweek night and one weekend day
• “Northfield is Open for Business” Campaign
• Connect Retail to Events

NDDC (alone or with partners):
• Retail Index Project
• Checklist of Media Process
• Facilitate College Connections
• Establish regular and scheduled communication between retailers, the colleges, the EDA, the City and the non-profits
• “Business After Hours” Mixer
• Special Events During College Breaks
• Welcome Students Barbecue in Bridge Square
• Add promotions for January and April
• Advocate for greater leverage from Downtown and River

City/EDA:
• Shop Local
• Assure that City’s Tools Meet Businesses’ Needs
• Publicize Resources/ Promote Tools
• Establish “Shepherd” to get business through City’s “Hoops”
• More focus of resources on existing businesses
• Create Board of Appeals
• Write and Publish: “Guide to Starting or Expanding a Business in Northfield”
• Consistent, fair and realistic enforcement of codes
• Mix of staff to include “Regulators” and “Enablers”
• Willingness to share risk in start-ups or expansions
• Investment in benches, bike racks, wayfinding signage, walking loops, public toilets, and information kiosks/directories

Other Non-Profits (Historical Society, Arts Guild, etceteras):
• Connect Events to Retail
• Communicate about scheduled events

Media:

• Better publicize resources


Overall, I was impressed with the presentation and the discussion among the participants. There’s clearly a love for the community, and many of these people have demonstrated both their willingness to work and the effectiveness of their efforts. My term on the EDA (2000-2006) coincided with the writing of the Economic Development Plan, and I’m encouraged by the way the Plan continues to be used – for shaping action in the community with the goal of strengthening our economic base. It’s not just “sitting on the shelf” (much).

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