Several Central Texas representatives headed to Las Vegas this weekend to promote commercial retail growth in their cities.
The Greater Killeen Chamber of Commerce and the Copperas Cove Economic Development Corporation sent people to the global International Council of Shopping Centers Conference that started Saturday and runs through Tuesday.
“This is the second year in a row that we are doing this,” said Polo Enriquez, executive director of Cove EDC. “We hope it bears fruit, but in economic development relationships are everything.”
Sending three people, the Cove corporation hoped to meet with several retailers, developers and support businesses to establish relationships that could help fill spaces in the Five Hills Shopping Center, the Narrows Business and Technology Park, Cove Terrace and other parts of town.
While businesses may not immediately arrive in Copperas Cove, their representatives will remember the city and know who to contact when they are ready to expand, Enriquez said.
“There are a lot of relationships that come from that (conference), that you have to work over time,” said John Crutchfield, Killeen chamber president
and Killeen Economic Development Corporation secretary. Killeen has sent a single representative and maintained a booth at the conference for a number of years.
By returning each year, the chamber can provide additional information to prospective retailers and developers who already showed interest in Killeen.
“You want to see those people every year and give them an update about what is changing in the community,” Crutchfield said.
Central Texas cities should attend the conference, said Jennie Snelling, regional vice president of Richardson-based Quine and Associates Inc. The company manages leasing at seven retail locations with more than 500,000 square feet of space between Temple and Copperas Cove.
Having representatives at the conference allows them to talk to retailers “to bring industry to Copperas Cove and Killeen,” Snelling said.
At the conference, Killeen provides demographics about the local trade area. It also provides information about why consumers leave the trade area and what they are buying when they do.
Such information lets retailers know they can capture those escaping sales dollars, Crutchfield said.
Harker Heights is not attending the global International Council of Shopping Centers conference in Las Vegas, said City Manager David Mitchell. Instead, city officials are more likely to visit the council’s regional conference.
“We want to make sure we will efficiently use our economic development dollars,” Mitchell said. “I am not sure if we have gone in Heights before, but I have gone for Hutto. When you have one that is local like (the Texas conference), you are going to have people that are interested in those communities.”
Supply chains and support operations for those commercial operations will already be in the state, which makes it easier for expansion into our area, Mitchell said.
The Cove EDC budgeted $6,000 in travel for hotel, meals and flights for three people. The Killeen chamber budgeted $3,000 in travel expenses for one representative and a booth at the conference.
Since taxpayers often fund the trips, Snelling said government entities should probably limit their representatives to two people. Quine and Associates sends eight to 15 agents every year.
Government representation helps create a synergy for the community, Snelling said. A lot of commercial real estate representatives attend the conference every year, too.
“Central Texas is going to be well represented,” she said.
Cove EDC did not obtain a booth. Instead, Cove hired a consultant for $3,300 who scheduled 16 appointments with various businesses at the conference.
“I am extremely pleased with the caliber of appointments that were set for us,” said Monica Hull, Cove EDC’s director of business development.
The consultant also scheduled five phone meetings with businesses before the conference.
A consultant allows greater access and more direct targeting of businesses looking to expand operations, Enriquez said.
“There has been a lot of interest in a smaller grocery store on the west end of town, so we have three meetings with people who represent the smaller grocery store chains,” he said. “We have a number of people who represent restaurants.”
Killeen’s representative is meeting with at least two development companies, Crutchfield said.
With an annual attendance of 32,000 people and more than 1,000 vendors representing developers, shopping centers and retailers, the conference provides plenty of opportunity, Crutchfield said.
“This gives us an opportunity to talk to people who have expressed interest in Copperas Cove already,” Enriquez said. “In this instance, we have a lot more to provide than we did last year.”