Retail Therapy

Stacy Bernardi 357x532The Rockford Area Economic Development Council’s primary mission is to cultivate opportunities for primary job growth that increase the economic well-being of our region.

Retail is a very important component to our community and local economy as it generates a tremendous amount of tax dollars for our local municipalities. Traditionally, retail jobs may pay livable wages, and therefore are not considered a “primary job” in the economic development world.

This certainly does not make them any less important to the person employed or to the community. There are Economic Development Organizations that do focus and dedicate a person to the retail industry.

The RAEDC has continued to focus on primary jobs. If you look as close as Aurora, “Invest Aurora” does dedicate a person to attract retail. With the strength we have in the Rockford Region, for example with Brokers that can attract retail, our focus at the RAEDC is to assist them when necessary. But we in the Rockford Region are very fortunate to have many partners, such as First Midwest Group that has built up the Rockford Regions retail market and Spring Creek Development and Landmark who also contribute at a very high level to our regions retail expansion.

The importance of the “buy local” theory is the multiplier effect that it has on a local economy. When we buy local versus the large retail chains, 48% of the revue spent is re-circulated back into the community versus 13.6% on chain stores. There is also the theory that when a community has many local retailers who have a proven track record of success over multiple years, chain stores will take a longer look at coming into a community or a downtown corridor. It proves to larger retailers that the community is committed to the growth of local business.

The reality of retail today is that retailers look at communities as primary or secondary, and then a community is rated at a lower level beyond that point. Retailers look at basic economic facts of the overall community. They look at average household income, the number of homes or rooftops as they are commonly called, the education level of the entire community, the unemployment rate, what their competition is going to be in the market and in some cases the demographics of an area. When communities question as to why there may not be a particular store in their community such as a Whole Foods, they need to look at the factors a company is requiring in order for them to locate a store in their community. Most companies will now list their requirements on their website.

The more primary jobs that a region retains and creates the more money there is to spend in a community. So while we at the RAEDC will help anyone with providing data or guiding them in what they need to be successful in retail, we do not generally focus on the attraction of retail. We are lucky to have strong partners whose focus is retail development so we can focus on the primary jobs.

– Stacy Bernardi, VP for Development


This article was also published in The Voice