By WAYLON CUNNINGHAM
Liberty Hill loses $89 million annually from its lack of a grocery store, $24 million from clothing stores, and $5 million from shoe stores alone.
A Walmart or other general retailer? $87.9 million. A Home Depot or Lowe’s, $27 million. More restaurants, $37 million, and more fast food, $34 million.
In all, $775 million are hemorrhaged every year from the city in untapped, or under-tapped, markets. But the firm that compiled these numbers says they’d like to look at it in a different way— a business opportunity.
The Retail Coach’s Aaron Farmer spoke last week to the Liberty Hill Economic Development Corp. as a part of the firm’s newly signed $35,000 contract to help the city recruit businesses to the area.
His presentation outlining Liberty Hill’s retail potential fulfilled the first of eight phases the Retail Coach has planned in its recruitment process.
These numbers were projected from the 34,000 people that the Retail Coach estimates live in Liberty Hill’s “retail area”— an economic zone defined by the town’s commercial reach. The area is larger than both the city’s defined limits and its extraterritorial jurisdiction.
“Forget about the city limits,” Farmer said. “It’s all about the retail area.”
The Retail Coach compiled roughly 20 pages of demographic information on this retail area, to include factors such as income level, race and median age.
To produce the estimates for revenue potentials in select markets, such as the $89 million for a grocery store, the average income level of those in the retail area was used to adjust a statewide profile on average spending habits.
The demographic information will also be viewable soon in an interactive map. This will enable the EDC and prospective businesses to see this information mapped onto Liberty Hill, block-by-block.
Farmer explained that this map could identify which properties would be best suited for a restaurant versus a dollar store, and so on. In response to questions from several Board members on specific businesses, Farmer said that the retail area population is still not large enough for a movie theater or a restaurant like Chili’s.
Additional information, such as a traffic count, will be forthcoming. The 2016 figures that the Retail Coach presented at last month’s city planning session, taken from TxDOT and other sources, were thought to be too low by some EDC members like Board President Bill Chapman.
The report so far marks a partial realization of the EDC’s long-sought “marketing package” for the city. The package, as envisioned by EDC members earlier this year, would be a collection of promotional materials to convince prospective retailers of the city’s commercial viability.
After Farmer’s presentation, the Board voted to continue funding the firm for the next seven phases. Previously, the EDC had approved to spend an amount up to $35,000 for the Retail Coach’s services. That number was based on early estimates, which later was lowered to $30,000.
Farmer said the firm’s entire eight-phase plan would take around 12 months, although it is common for them to continue relationships with communities for years afterwards.
In the past, The Retail Coach has worked with cities such as Georgetown, Leander and Lockhart. Marble Falls is the firm’s closest active client to Liberty Hill.