Faced with challenges of succeeding at traditional economic development (aka bringing manufacturing to town) some leaders have pivoted to retail expansion is an acceptable Plan B. They should pause.
For decades we have rejected requests for abatements and subsidies for retail because in a finite market, a new retailer simply takes away market share from other retailers who have done business and paid taxes without a government handout.
There are nuances. We've done TTDs (Transportation Development Districts) for Kohl's and the East End Walmart because the sales taxes paid for critical infrastructure. Note how Sam's is now coming not based on incentives but because the guys in Bentonville did their homework and think they can make money without a handout.
"Economic Development" in our town has become such an overused term that it lacks much meaning. We should not water down the old phrase more to embrace a new Olive Garden -- although I like their salads.
We have to look no farther than the Strategic Plan created by the Chamber with help from TIP Strategies and lots of community input. It's been ignored because of the failure of the Transformation sales tax. The tax failed but the analysis is still right on. The question now is now to proceed.
And retail is not a valid substitute for real job growth.