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Taxpayers need to see results of firm’s work

Both Brookhaven and Lincoln County approved new contracts with the Retail Coach this year. The company is a retail recruitment firm from Tupelo that works to identify gaps in local economies and helps to fill them.

The city and county contracted together for $30,000 for the firm’s first year in town and split the $20,000 cost for the second year. The new contracts bring their investment in the firm to $70,000.

That’s real money, so it is prudent to ask how the company has performed. Based on what has been presented at public meetings it doesn’t look like the Retail Coach has accomplished much.

A rep for the company in April claimed credit for the opening of a Zaxby’s and the planned opening of a Smoothie King. The rep later clarified those remarks after it became clear that a group of local investors brought Zaxby’s to town with little help from the Retail Coach. It was the same situation for Smoothie King, which has yet to open.

Other than those two claims, the company’s rep said her top focus was recruiting a grocery store and finding a tenant for the soon-to-be vacant Fred’s building.

Those are worthy goals and we hope the Retail Coach is successful. But we also urge caution when it comes time to renew the company’s contracts next year.

Since the company uses “coach” in its name, maybe a baseball analogy is fitting. The Retail Coach is at the plate with two strikes (Zaxby’s and Smoothie King) and the next pitch could make them winners or losers. Bringing in a grocery store would be a home run. Finding a tenant for Fred’s would be, too. Not landing either feels like the third strike, and any coach will tell you that three strikes is an out.

If the company has more at-bats planned or in the works, then it would be wise to let the public know. Meeting in executive session might keep potential businesses happy, but it does little to convince the taxpaying public that the contracts are worth its hard-earned dollars.

More openness, fewer strikes and at least one hit is a recipe for winning. We hope the Retail Coach can pull out a win, but if they cannot we hope city and county leaders are prepared to take them out of the game.