Based on a community-survey questionnaire completed by a newly formed retail-advisory board and supported by research conducted by Retail Strategies, Liberty County needs full-service and higher-end dining, more grocery stores, fast-food restaurants in outlying areas, big-box stores along with electronics, shoe and sporting-goods stores, and family entertainment.
Retail-attraction team member Leah Poole updated county commissioners Thursday on efforts to attract retailers to Liberty County and its cities. Poole is CEO of the Liberty County Chamber of Commerce & Convention and Visitors Bureau.
“The consultant said Liberty County is a ‘food desert,’” she said.
Poole added the consultant said at least two retailers have expressed interest in the former Food Lion on Gen. Screven Way in Hinesville. The supermarket was shut down permanently at the end of August.
Vicki Davis, Hinesville Downtown Development Authority director, and Danielle Hipps, Liberty County Development Authority director of marketing and communications, serve with Poole on the retail-attraction team. The team functions as staff for the retail-advisory board, which is made up of 17 local government and business leaders, Poole explained.
Last August, the county committed $2,000 toward the $32,000 cost for a 12-month contract with Retail Strategies. The contract was executed Oct. 1, according to Poole. The Birmingham, Ala.-based firm analyzes local demographics and markets and estimates residents’ and businesses’ buying patterns to see how much is spent outside the county that could be spent locally. The consultant is using this information to recruit businesses to the community, Poole said.
“It was suggested by the advisory board that they (recommend) limiting the following retail: title pawn, adult novelty and package liquor stores,” she said.
Commissioner Connie Thrift, who serves on the advisory board, told fellow commissioners the board would not prohibit these types of retailers from locating in Liberty County, simply that the consultant would focus on attracting other types of businesses.
The consultant has represented Liberty County at six commercial conferences, including Retail Live, Retailer One-on-One and ICSC (International Council of Shopping Centers) meetings in Dallas, Atlanta and New York, Poole told commissioners. The firm also plans to represent the county at a retail convention in Las Vegas, Nev., she added.
“Specifically, he said they have been in touch with developers based in Atlanta, Memphis and Birmingham who are interested in looking at the secondary markets in Liberty County for stand-alone and multi-tenant opportunities,” Poole reported. “His (consultant’s) goal is to bring each developer into the market sometime within the first quarter of 2014.”
The commission also discussed a potential location for a Liberty County Sheriff’s Office substation in the old Midway library building to better serve the east end of the county.
“The old library building will provide more space and privacy, thus allowing for other activities to be conducted there,” Liberty County Administrator Joey Brown said.
Brown informed commissioners that a part of the property on which the old library building sits is owned by the LCDA.
“We will be asking them for an easement to use that piece for egress and ingress,” he said.
Brown added that utilizing the property for the county’s purposes would keep it from reverting back to the original owners, which would happen if the local government allowed the building to sit vacant for a year.