• 59°

Coach looking to boost retail economy in Brookhaven and Lincoln County

City and county officials are hoping for a business boom with the help of Retail Coach.

In February, the Brookhaven Board of Aldermen and the Lincoln County Board of Supervisors approved the one-year contract with Retail Coach to enhance and develop the retail gap, and to create jobs for the city of Brookhaven.

The city’s portion was $18,250 to hire the company and the county’s was the same.

Both the city and the county have paid two installments to date, one payment in March for $6,000 and another payment in June for $6,173.

Garrick Combs, executive director for the Brookhaven-Lincoln County Chamber of Commerce, serves as the point of contact for the city and Retail Coach.

When Retail Coach completes a report, they go to Combs and then he reports to Mayor Joe Cox and Chancery Clerk Tillmon Bishop. Cox and Bishop are responsible for providing information to their respective boards.

“The Chamber is the traffic cop,” said Combs. “We make sure to keep an eye on what they are doing.”

For those who are skeptical of using taxpayers’ dollars for projects such as these, Combs said he understands frustrations of those who may not hear much of what Retail Coach is actually doing.

“We cannot comment on projects that are in motion,” Combs said. “It’s not because we want to be secretive or anything like that. It’s because we sign confidentiality agreements that lets us know what that person can do to us if they deem you’ve caused harm to their business with prematurely reporting things.”

“The general rule we follow at the Chamber is we allow a certain company to go public when they feel it’s in their best interests. They need to do it on their terms and when they’re ready.”

Since February, Retail Coach has been busy researching and performing analysis on what businesses could potentially thrive in the Brookhaven market.

They’ve completed that and are now in full-fledge marketing mode.

“We’ve contacted over 100 developers, retailers and businesses. We’re trying to get feedback on who’s interested and who’s not interested in coming to Brookhaven,” said Scott Emison, vice president of Retail Coach. “Our goal is to bring in a business that the city is not already saturated with. We really feel there is a need for an additional hotel and additional sit down/casual restaurants in Brookhaven. We’re looking at seeing what we can do with some of those parcels located in front of Home Depot.”

Emison said it’s time for Brookhaven to start building on the western end of Brookway Boulevard.

He also emphasized that downtown Brookhaven has played a major role in getting businesses interested in coming here.

“There are regional and national retailers and restaurants that would love the charm of what’s going on in downtown Brookhaven and would be interested in moving here,” Emison said. “As far as Brookhaven as a whole goes, we’ve got key properties that are in serious negotiations right now and we also have several stand-alone retailers and restaurants interested in coming here.”

With Brookhaven located on I-55, Emison believes it can compete with McComb and even have a better market with more opportunities.

He said retail is an ever-changing market and that Brookhaven needs to be competitive.

“There is a lot of opportunity for Brookhaven to capture the market south of Jackson. We need to be proactive. If we aren’t and a certain restaurant shows up in McComb or a surrounding area, then people aren’t going to like having to get in their car to travel somewhere, when it could be here,” Emison said.

Retail Coach is planning a workshop with downtown businesses in December to present data and show businesses what they believe could be an asset for their company. They are also attending a shopping center conference in Atlanta in October to see if anyone would be interested in coming to Brookhaven.

Combs expects the next update from Retail Coach in mid-October.

Garrick Combs