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6/26/2003

Selling Longmont

By Tony Kindelspire
The Daily Times-Call

LONGMONT — The city of Longmont is considering spending $60,000 on a product that could help lure retailers here.

Is it a good idea? That was the topic of discussion Wednesday at a meeting between city officials, private developers and a representative from The Buxton Co., which makes the product, called CommunityID.

Sales tax revenues are down nearly 3 percent, year-to-date, from what they were a year ago. And as one developer said, “The city of Longmont is vastly under-retailed.”

“It’s kind of like it was 25 years ago, when we were trying to change Longmont from an agricultural community to this high-tech community,” another developer said. “I see a lot of correlation in this.”

The Daily Times-Call was invited to sit in on the meeting provided that none of the developers were identified by name. City officials said they wanted the developers — some of whom are critical of the proposed expenditure — to speak freely.

“We thought it would make sense to pick the brains of those of you who are in the business and do this on a regular basis, to let us know what you think,” said Phil DelVecchio, Longmont’s community development director.

The CommunityID software identifies certain retail trade areas in a city. A client community is then given demographic information on specific retailers that would be attracted to a specific area. The Buxton Co. also provides contact information for those companies.

“This is a big issue in a lot of cities,” said Rich Hollander, executive vice president with the Texas-based Buxton Co.

The company claims to have compiled data on 111 million households, spread out over 150 in-house databases.

“More retailers want in than the city has land for,” a developer commented. “This is a great tool, and the city should think about it. This can be a great tool to assist developers. Does the city need it? I don’t know.”

That developer’s contention was that as a “stand-alone” city, Longmont has advantages over other cities — for instance, Northglenn, which is a CommunityID customer.

“I think this is a great tool ... if you don’t know anything about the communities you’re working in,” a developer said.

Hollander disagreed. He said retailers are “not proactive — they’re reactive.

“What it does for you is it gets the right retailers here.”

Everyone seemed to agree that the demographic information CommunityID compiles is available elsewhere, but the developers generally acknowledged that obtaining that information is costly.

Another developer spoke of a big-box store he had been in contact with that was considering opening a store in Lark Ridge, a massive development planned for the junction of Interstate 25 and C-470.

“We’re 120,000 square feet, and we’ll get the Longmont people anyway if we go in there,” he said the big-box store told him.

Hollander’s counter to that was the “gravity” argument: “The closer they are, the more they’ll spend,” he said.

City Councilman Doug Brown, who attended the meeting, said the development that will spring up in the areas surrounding Longmont that has him concerned.

“There’s going to be tremendous growth in Weld County, and that can benefit Longmont or that can hurt Longmont,” Brown said.

DelVecchio said he would put together a summary of Wednesday’s meeting and send it out to local developers, seeking more of their comments.

Funding for the project is an issue that will need to be settled: whether the city would put the money out itself, or whether the developers would be willing to pay for a portion of CommunityID. Eventually, the matter will likely go before the full City Council.

“Would the private sector contribute to this? Absolutely,” said a developer, noting that he was speaking only for himself. “Does the money need to be spent? I don’t know.”

Tony Kindelspire can be reached at 303-776-2244, Ext. 291, or by e-mail at tkindelspire@times-call.com.