Albany is the shopping hub of Southwest Georgia, and if you've been near the Albany Mall lately, you may have noticed a lot of construction work going on. Some new stores are moving into the northwest part of the city, bringing new jobs with them.
Petsmart and other large retailers are set to move in by the end of the year, which is a sign the local economy is getting stronger.
The land preparation that started last week is right on schedule. Workers are clearing this area on North Westover Boulevard for a Gander Mountain outdoors store and an Ulta beauty store. "Northwest Albany is a very hot market for retailers. And not everyone is aware that Albany is a very good retail spot for a lot of different reasons," said Economic Development President Ted Clem.
He says even though the Albany metro area is one of the smallest metros in the nation, it has a retail trade area that's much larger than other cities close to our size. "So we're a much better market for retailers than most people would assume because it goes way beyond our local population base and encompasses about a 12-15 county area for shoppers," said Clem.
And all those potential customers are catching the attention of retailers. "When you see construction take place like this, it's a good sign that perhaps the economy is making a turn. When you start seeing retailers return to the market and making investments, it's a good sign for us locally."
And this location is just one of a few sites in Albany where new businesses are moving in. Right across the street in the Albany square, crews are transforming vacant buildings into two retail spaces for a Petsmart and a Party City. The new retailers should boost the city's employment numbers.
"With a company like Gander Mountain, with Petsmart and some of the others that are looking in the area, they'll be new job opportunities. Many of them will have both full and part-time positions. So it's gonna fill a need in our community for jobs," said Clem.
And any traveling shoppers may be happy to hear a new Hampton Inn hotel is nearing completion just down the street. The stores will also boost the city's tax base by paying property taxes and collecting sales taxes.
Ted Clem expects all those new stores to be in time for the Christmas season. He says some other new retailers have expressed interest in Albany but don't have set plans to move here.