Businesses are consistently looking at Decatur as a place to expand their operations.
Before making any final decisions, they usually gather as much information as possible. For a variety of reasons, the opening process for businesses, particularly franchises, isn’t as quick as they would usually prefer even for those with a high amount of interest.
“We’ve got a lot of information they’re looking at,” said Patrick Hoban, economic development officer with the city of Decatur. “It’s not just the numbers. We have to tell our story.”
Hoban has started a retail feedback tour seeking input from residents on what types of retail or restaurant development that they might like to see in the city for vacant commercial sites. The second event in the tour is 5:30-6:30 p.m. Monday, March 31 at 303 N. Main St.
Hoban will be on hand with site details, demographics and market research to help individuals make informed decisions, with responses tallied and added to a city prospect database. It’s similar information as to what businesses looking at places to locate are seeking.
For some franchises, it’s a matter of finding somebody locally with an interest in running the business. They want to find somebody who they think can succeed.
“We want to bring our level of service to places like Decatur,” said Larry Flaherty, director of franchise development for Pet Supplies Plus.
The company will work with the franchisee to set up the business, including selection of a site, Flaherty said.
“We’re able to make getting into business so much easier,” Flaherty said.
It would not be looking to construct a new building, but Flaherty said it usually looks for an existing space to renovate that would be convienent for customers.
Pet Supplies Plus, a Michigan based franchise that is approaching 300 locations, is looking to continue expanding over the next few years in 23 states east of the Mississippi River, Flaherty said. It offers organic and wholistic food and pet grooming supplies and toys in addition to small animals such as reptiles, fish, turtles and birds, Flaherty said.
Decatur fits the criteria Anago Cleaning Systems is looking for as it expands, said Judy Walker, vice president of marketing for Anago Cleaning Systems. Anago is looking for a franchisee to leads its commericial cleaning operation in the local market, Walker said.
To do so, Walker said the master franchisee applicant must first meet financial qualifications. “It’s a perfect opportunity to control your own destiny,” Walker said. “They’re buying a proven system.”
Anago uses over 30 master franchises which oversee 2,400 smaller unit franchises.
Cleaning is a recession-resistant industry as Walker said every building needs it done. It has become a $100 billion a year industry, she said.
“The need is always there,” Walker said. “Not only would we be adding a small business to the area but we’re adding jobs. It’s an opportunity not to be missed.”
Hoban is hoping retailers and other businesses can be convinced Decatur is the right fit and is willing to provide them with whatever information is available to make it happen. The recent announcement that JCPenney plans to close its Forsyth store shows the situations many retailers are facing with compeition from online merchants.
The level of inquiries remains strong, Hoban said.
Mayor Mike McElroy said the city is looking for ideas on what to bring to the area.
“We certainly have people that want a variety,” McElroy said. “We are looking to try to get choices.”
Development often is a matter of someone willing to make an investment, McElroy said.
“We’ve got people to help make that investment,” he said. “We needed to do something to make downtown better, and we did it. The lake is game changer. It’s going to take time. Decatur always gets out and comes back. It can reinvent itself because of the people we have here.”
The perception business developers have of the area starts even before they talk to officials such as Hoban. Developers are often in town asking questions along the way, Hoban said.
“Perception is reality,” Hoban said. “They do come in before they talk me. One of the things we’ve got to convinence them of is with the cost of living, they’re going to have more money to play with.”
In addition to helping new businesses looking to locate in the area, Hoban said much of his work has focused on assisting existing businesses looking to expand.