Albany should draw more retail development - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Albany should draw more retail development

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By Jennifer Emert - bio | email

ALBANY, GA (WALB) - The Albany area has one of the strongest retail pull factors in the state.

That means a lot of out-of-towners do their shopping here. But lately, the region hasn't pulled in any big retail chains. Economic Development officials say right now the reason is simply the slow economy.

In April 2007, marketing managers for Oakland Plantation said in the next two years we'd see development along this tract of land. That deadline has been pushed back, because the type of village shopping setting they want to develop is costly and economic development officials say big banks, aren't willing to take the risk.

Even with the second strongest retail pull factor in Georgia, the Albany area has struggled to attract new development. Development around the new Publix in Lee County is an exception, other developers, just can't convince the big banks to make the committment.

"The financing for new commercial investments is real tight right now, even with the big banks," said Winston Oxford, Lee County Economic Development Authority Director.

Even though the market seems to be ripe for building, and businesses like Bed, Bath, and Beyond, Dick's Sporting Goods and Best Buy have expressed interest.

"The market's perfect for finding locations and then building materials are down and other things in the building industry are down as far as cost," said Tracy Hester, Albany Development Services Sr. Manager.

"Entities such as the Best Buys of the world are looking for good deals on existing vacant commercial properties, they have been looking at some building in the Albany MSA," said Oxford. 

They won't commit to locations like the old Circuit City. Development officials say it's because the public's not spending. While developers can sell the region based simply on the numbers, including households and location since Albany sits about 90 minutes from Columbus, Tallahassee, and others, but they're not showing retailers what might be the smoking gun.

"In our particular area, they really need to get out and count tags. We're drawing from 20, 30 other counties to here because we are that market that they come to," said Hester.

Meaning the draw to shop in Albany and the surrounding area is strong. Next week economic development officials and developers from southwest Georgia will head to the International Conference of Shopping Center Southeastern Conference in Atlanta to remind local retailers about this region and encourage them to chose locations like this in southwest Georgia.

Albany's Planning and Development office says while new retail development it down, permits for remodeling and additions have picked up, making the lack of new development not as bad.


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