Bringing a sought-after restaurant to Minot or gaining a popular store that used to require a long drive are the types of benefits the Minot City Council hopes to obtain from its decision to hire a retail consultant.
Minot City Manager Harold Stewart clarified the purpose of a consultant after what appeared to be community confusion this past week.
“The main crux of why we hired a consultant was to do some data analysis about who’s coming to spend money in our community, and where do our citizens go to spend money, and what are they spending it on. Then we can use that data to identify needs within the community that aren’t being met,” City Manager Harold Stewart said.
Once gaps are identified, the data can be used to potentially recruit the type of businesses that can fill those gaps.
For instance, if Minot area residents are traveling to another community and spending thousands or millions of dollars on particular products, the city can seek out a vendor selling those products to try to interest them in opening a store in Minot, Stewart said.
“This consulting company can help us get that data and interpret that data. They then help us make that connection with anyone in the retail space that can help meet that need,” he said.
Data also can be used to strengthen existing businesses, he added. However, the consultant, Retail Coach, won’t be coaching individual businesses or focusing solely on downtown.
Instead, the data becomes a tool that any Minot businesses can choose to use if looking for insights that can help in their decision making, regardless of their location, size or financial status.
The contract with Retail Coach will focus on the city as a whole but will have a downtown component, providing data specific to downtown to aid in attracting potential new investors, Stewart said.
Another component will be identifying available commercial property inventory. Stewart said the city will not be involved in property negotiations but will help only to make connections between property owners and companies or investors looking for spaces.
A key piece of the project is to reduce leakage, keeping money local and decreasing pressure on property taxes, Stewart said.
“Secondly, it creates a stronger regional presence for us,” he added. “Anytime we get somebody from outside to come spend money in Minot, the better that is for our community. And thirdly is just quality of life — meeting these interests and these needs that our citizens want and expect within our community.”
The $47,500 in funding for the consultant contract comes from sales taxes collected for economic development that otherwise would go into the MAGIC Fund.