Residents are vocal about what they see as the greatest deficiencies in the fluctuating local market, but local experts say demand tells a different tale.
While she enjoys the variety of different restaurants to eat at, Killeen resident Artia Perry said she would like a greater assortment of local attractions.
Local waterparks are fun in the summer, Perry said, but when it is cold or rainy, the options for family-oriented activities are sparse.
Perry listed places like game arcades, Dave and Buster’s, go carts, Top Golf and Spare Time as the sort of family entertainment she would like to see in Killeen. She also suggested more bowling alleys, skating rinks, inside golf or putt-putt golf.
“Just something that is fun and exciting,” Perry said. “We have the largest military installation in our back yard and we don’t have anything for military families to do.”
Perry also mentioned safety and crime rates as a concern.
“I recently saw a post online where a parent was at a local park and there were needles on the table,” Perry said. “We as a city need to do better.”
Another Killeen resident said she would like to see more free or inexpensive entertainment.
“I think there should be cheap or free things to do,” said Killeen resident Sam Hinkle. “You have a lot of single parents working paycheck-to-paycheck working two and three jobs just to make ends meet.”
Hinkle also said she believes there is a problem with over pricing services and goods in a military town.
“Locals do not deserve to be priced out of their homes and our brave men and women serving our country shouldn’t be taken advantage of.”
In addition to family-friendly activities, residents have expressed a desire for more specialty shops for the variety of interests the residents enjoy.
Local photographer Eric Von Franklin said he would like to see a camera store open in Killeen.
“There are tons of photographers in the area,” said Von Franklin, a retired soldier and a freelance photographer whose photos have appeared in the Herald. “And we have to order online or go to Austin for equipment.”
Von Franklin said an antique furniture store or flea market would be a welcome addition to the area, as well as walking trails and better use of other outdoor spaces.
“Also, since Sears is now gone, an indoor go kart track would be great in that area,” Von Franklin said. “Most places that have indoor go-cart tracks use buildings that were not purposely built for that reason.”
With the growth of the local schools, Von Franklin said it would also be nice to see more activities geared toward children.
“I would also love to see a store or business that offered STEM projects for kids,” Von Franklin said. “Since every year our schools are getting packed, we keep building more things for adults and nothing for children.”
In addition to local entertainment and options for local shopping, Killeen resident Joe Rivera said he would like to see more manufacturing jobs lured to the city.
But while many residents are disgruntled with the local options, another Killeen resident, Angel Pavey said people aren’t fully appreciating the options they have available.
“I don’t know that we need more businesses per se,” Pavey said. “I believe people have lost value in what we have and have lost sight in our surroundings.”
The economy has proved hard on new and family-owned businesses she said.
“If the community could support more small family-owned businesses, that personal touch could encourage locals to keep coming back,” Pavey said. “We do not need more fast food chains or franchises in my opinion, as it seems we are over saturated.”
While it would be nice to have more family-oriented businesses such as Mt. Playmore or Uncle Buck’s Fish Bowl, Killeen resident LaTonya Camphor said it progress will only be an option if people take care of what they already have.
“Killeen could offer more if people would take more responsibility for their teens and their behavior,” Camphor said. “A business is an investment, no one wants to invest in something people don’t appreciate.”
Camphor said it would be nice to see more positive activities for teens.
“The number one complaint I see is that there is nothing for teens,” Camphor said. “The good kids of Killeen can’t have anything because of the unruly kids.”
She also said cost is a factor both for consumers and businesses considering moving to Killeen.
“I would like to see something similar to Austin Park and Pizza for teens,” Camphor said.
“But not something that parents can just leave their kids like it’s free childcare.”
Ultimately the market is driven by supply and demand, according to John Crutchfield, president of the Greater Killeen Chamber of Commerce.
“We keep getting more car washes and fast food restaurants due to the law of demand and supply,” Crutchfield said. “The demand for what they provide is such that very few lose money because people keep buying their products. As long as the demand is unmet, investors will keep building them.”
New businesses and investors can project their success by trying to meet one of the demands local residents currently travel elsewhere to satisfy, Crutchfield said.
“We use a Retail Gap Analysis or Leakage Report to target retail,” Crutchfield said. “This tells us what people are leaving this market to purchase in other markets by product and amount.”
The local leakage report is available to the public on the Killeen Economic Development Corporation website under the data tab.