National retailers may be calling Murray County home in the next year or two if Retail Attractions is able to deliver on its promise to the cities of Sulphur and Davis.
The two cities have joined forces, along with the Murray County Development Authority, to recruit more business to the county. Davis and Sulphur have split the cost of hiring Rickey Hayes, CEO and economic development consultant of Retail Attractions, LLC, to spearhead their efforts. A special meeting was held by the Davis City Council and Murray County Development Authority Tuesday. Officials listened to a presentation by Hayes to learn what exactly attracting national retailers to the area will look like.
“You guys have plenty of market potential in this part of Oklahoma,” Hayes said. “You will see this play out, but it will probably take longer than you think it should to get the retail here.”
During his presentation Hayes passed out a timeline his company created to explain how long it traditionally takes to bring big retailers to communities where this type of retail does not exist. The timeline spans from 18-36 months. Hayes said in a perfect world developers would be finished with a project in just 18 months, but there are always snags along the way that hold up the process. The snags could be anything from not being able to secure a retailer for the area, or having trouble getting construction permits approved.
The two cities have agreed to pay Retail Attractions, LLC, based in Owasso, $48,000 annually— a cost that will be split equally each year until the cities no longer need Hayes’ help.
Retail Attractions has had success with many communities across Oklahoma. His client list includes cities as big as Oklahoma City, and as small as Disney, Okla., which has a population of 303 people. Hayes also has many clients of similar population size to Davis and Sulphur, such as Mannford, Eufaula  and Spiro.
Hayes’ presentation also addressed many issues community leaders may face during the process —  like pushback from constituents.
“How many times have you heard people say, big nationals hurt mom and pop (businesses)?” Hayes said. “It’s not true. If these locals have a good product, and good service, they will continue to have business.”
He said that often times smaller cities’ residents will just flat out say they don’t want the national retailer in their town, but that the city thrives economically if these corporate stores come. Another concern addressed at the meeting was that often private citizens will chase off prospects of big retail coming to the area because they refuse to sell their land for what it is worth. Hayes said he spoke from experience in that all too often citizens will hear that their land will soon be a national retailer and suddenly want $9 million for land that is only worth $2 million or less.
Hayes said to avoid this issue cities have to start thinking like the private sector.
“We’re seeing cities get in the real estate business to combat this issue,” he said. “They’re buying land to sell to these retailers. Cities want the $60,000 a year for 20 years in sales tax revenue because they live and die by sales tax.”
The last issue addressed was a question that city officials are sure they will have to answer in the community: What if businesses come to one city and not the other?
“Now, what if Sulphur gets two retailers and Davis only gets one? I promise you the county will benefit no matter where they are,” Hayes said. “It’s important for the individual communities to have the mindset that we’re going to do what’s best for the communities as a whole.”
Retail Attractions is looking to bring clothing retailers and another grocery store to the area. Currently, Walmart in Sulphur is the only large grocery retailer in the area. This meeting was the first of many that city officials will have with Hayes, but officials are already excited about what the retail consultant will bring to the community.
“We want to see this community grow,” Sulphur City Councilman Robert Clark (Ward Five) said. “We want this community to be a place where our children want to raise a family.”
Clark was the only Sulphur council member able to attend the meeting, so an official meeting, as required under the Oklahoma Open Meeting Act, was necessary for the city of Sulphur.
Efforts to attract more shopping to the area were initiated after Davis ended the last fiscal year with an eight percent drop in sales tax revenue— a trend that many southern Oklahoma cities experienced. Graham knows it will be a long road getting these retailers into the area, but he is hopeful that the influx of people summertime brings to the area will help reel in retailers who are on the fence.
“The size of our community is a challenge,” Graham said. “That’s the reason we’re pushing our summer attendance because we want to show those companies how many people we bring to the area. Ardmore is exploding with growth and we want to keep our citizens’ tax dollars here by bringing in some competition.”