Time to come together for retail growth
by Jack McNeely
Feb 17, 2013 | 526 views | 0 0 comments | 3 3 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Jack Mcneely
Jack Mcneely
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Retail recruitment is getting a lot of attention and discussion here in Jasper and Walker County.

And it should.

Where is our TJ Maxx? Where is our Hobby Lobby? Where is our multiplex movie theater with stadium seating? Where is our Applebee’s? Where is our Lone Star Steakhouse? Where is our Red Lobster?

Why should we have to drive to Cullman and Gardendale for these amenities?

I am not the only person asking these questions.

The Chamber of Commerce of Walker County is doing something about it. It recently signed a contract with Retail Strategies, Inc., a Birmingham-based retail recruitment agency with a proven track record.

With the completion of the Chamber’s five-year strategic plan, its leadership determined that retail recruitment should be a priority. “We realized then that upon completion, I-22 would be a cog for economic growth in our region,” says Linda Lewis, executive director of the local chamber.

The I-22 corridor, better known today as Corridor X, is slated for completion in late 2014 when it ties into I-65 just north of Birmingham. That is just around the corner!

And what in the way of retail do we attribute to the major interstate corridor dissecting our county: a Love’s Truck Stop and a promise of a Cracker Barrel?

Meanwhile, Lewis adds, “The chamber wants to continue down the path to create and implement a comprehensive community development program that fosters a strong retail and commercial business climate, nurtures growth of our existing business and provides new economic strategies for job creation and revenue impact.”

It all sounds good, but all entities must work together. I am not going to beat around the bush; the chamber and City of Jasper must work together if retail recruitment and growth is to occur anywhere in Walker County.

I must note here that I have a seat on the chamber board. The board is comprised of well-intentioned business people that understand the complexities of our economic challenges.

But I also have no doubt that city officials and its retail recruiter Don Goetz share the same retail goals. In fact, Don is leading an effort this year to rejuvenate the Downtown Merchants Association by introducing monthly themed weekend events on downtown square. And the Foothills Festival may return.

Whoever is wielding the hatchet, please bury it. It’s time to come together for the sake of retail recruitment in Jasper and Walker County.

Jack McNeely is Publisher of the Daily Mountain Eagle and can be contacted by phone at 205-221-2840 or via email at jack.mcneely@mountaineagle.com.