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“The business of business is business” and bringing it to Navasota

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Part 2 of 3

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    Examiner photo by Connie Clements Bringing new business to a community is all about the numbers. City Manager Brad Stafford said, “Every town is the right fit for something, whatever that something is. It’s all related to demographics and proximity to other businesses.

That headline is a quote from the late economist and Nobel Prize winner, Milton Friedman. For a decade City Manager Brad Stafford has made it his business to spread the message to retailers that the welcome mat is out, and the light is on in Navasota. In this three-part series, Stafford and Navasota Grimes Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Johnny McNally, discuss “marketing” the city and the county, and the challenges of meeting retailers’ demographic criteria.

Meeting the criteria, or not!

Stafford said, “Demographics play such a heavy role in who we can recruit. Target won’t even consider Navasota today because we don’t meet any of their criteria as far as population, median income level and education levels.”

He continued, “We also hear ‘we’re not building brick and mortar buildings in the immediate future.’ Amazon changed the world which is also changing the Walmarts of the world.”

So, just what are those pesky demographics that stand between Navasota and Chick-Fil-A? As of 2018, Navasota’s population of 7,852 had a median household income of $50,562 (compared to the national median of $63,179), with 30.24% earning more than the national average. Education-wise, 34.4% of Navasota residents graduated from high school and 19.41% have a college degree.

Navasota’s community profile in its entirety is available at www.navasotatx.govunder the Economic Development tab and also provides information about traffic volume, a major factor for retail investors.

Stafford said, “Every town is the right fit for something, whatever that something is, it’s all related to demographics and proximity to other businesses. We’re concerned when we see something go up in S. College Station. The retailers know how far someone is willing to drive for their product.”

A “numbers” game

The Retail Live! 2019 Trade Show Book is an eye-opener in terms of what retailers are looking for. Of the 88 retailers represented, many listed specific site requirements, traffic counts, median income level and population, and for most, Navasota isn’t a match.

For example, Whataburger, a favorite of many locals, requires a population of 35,000 within 3 miles – more than the population of Grimes County!

Burger King requires a traffic count of 30,000 cars per day so did ties to the community influence developer Jim Kolkhorst to invest in Navasota?

Other examples include Arby’s which requires a population of 20,000 within 2 miles, median income of $55,000 and 20,000 cars per day; Buffalo Wild Wings, a population of 40,000 within 2 miles; or Red Lobster, 25,000 cars per day.

McNally said, “Either we meet their criteria, or we don’t but we’re laying the foundation when we go to these things. We know that over the next couple of years we will be meeting that criteria so we’re establishing relationships that will have benefits years down the road.”

A “buyer’s market”

While Stafford and McNally are prepared with numbers and available sites for city and county, retailers are ahead of the game. One example, one retailer when approached about Navasota, pulled out his cellphone and scrolled through data on Navasota’s existing businesses.

McNally said, “They were giving us the statistics on the amount of business our existing businesses were doing! They already knew how much revenue was coming into the existing businesses. We know our supply and what’s available at the moment and we can help steer, but they may have their minds made up already, and they do have their data, and it’s just impressive.”

Stafford said, “Another thing they do is talk to TxDOT. What’s that road going to do in the next 20 years? Is it going to expand? Is it going to have an overpass? They don’t want to invest millions of dollars with a 25-year commitment and in eight years, they get bypassed with a flyover.”

For citizens wondering why retailers don’t see the potential in the SH 249 Extension Project connecting to SH 105, Stafford said, “A return of investment is needed immediately, and they can’t wait. So TxDOT says the road is coming, but if the bottom falls out of the economy, you wouldn’t want to invest your money with the hope that this big thing was going to happen.”

Next week, Part 3: Location, location, location!