• 84°

Supervisors doubtful of contract — Lincoln County leaders take wait-and-see approach with The Retail Coach

A business-recruiting firm working for the county is asking for a new deal, but supervisors aren’t ready to buy another year just yet.

The Lincoln County Board of Supervisors on Monday tabled action on a new contract from The Retail Coach, a development firm seeking $10,000 each from the county and City of Brookhaven for another year’s work recruiting retail businesses to the area. After 12 months, supervisors have grown skeptical of the firm’s worth, deciding during Monday’s meeting to set the paperwork aside until they see how city aldermen respond to their half of the re-up request.

“I’d just like to see proof in the pudding, myself,” said District 1 Supervisor the Rev. Jerry Wilson.

Supervisors and aldermen went in together last February to contract The Retail Coach, a Tupelo-based consulting firm that works with local governments and chambers of commerce to identify gaps in retail communities and fill them by recruiting like businesses.

The first-year contract cost the city and county $18,250 each to pay for research tasks. With those tasks complete, the 2018 contract is almost half the price.

But $10,000 is $10,000, and supervisors — who have had to borrow money to replace numerous bridges, the roof on the county jail and other maintenance projects — are watching their wallets closely. They are reluctant to spend money on a project that has yet to bear any obvious fruit.

“Last time, all they said was something about an eating joint on Brookway and a bunch of times we’ve been turned down,” said District 3 Supervisor Nolan Earl Williamson.

Two restaurants have publicly made plans to open new locations on Brookway Boulevard—Zaxby’s and Smoothie King. It is unclear if those restaurants were discussed with supervisors since the meetings with The Retail Coach have been in closed session and not open to the public. 

It does not appear The Retail Coach is involved in the effort to bring Zaxby’s to Brookhaven. City officials in October credited a team of local investors with the Zaxby’s project.

Supervisors on Monday wanted to hear more from the firm before signing a new contract.

“We said we’d give them a year to see what they can do. I think we’ve had them here once in that time, and we had to call them for that,” said District 4 Supervisor Eddie Brown.

District 5 Supervisor Doug Falvey, however, was in favor of giving The Retail Coach another year.

“It’s hard to get anything accomplished in a year’s time, with all that background work and research they had to do. Look at the chamber of commerce and how many businesses they’ve brought us, and we’re paying them a heck of a lot more money. We need to keep our feelers out there,” Falvey said.

He has at least one ally on the Brookhaven Board of Aldermen. Ward 1 Alderman Dorsey Cameron said he has hope The Retail Coach will succeed in landing new businesses in the city.

“Anything that has a chance of helping bring jobs to Brookhaven, I support it 100 percent,” he said. “But we still need to hear what they have to say and what their plans are in the future.”