City, EDA announce contract with consulting firm

Published 5:33 pm Monday, October 23, 2017

Selma will be working with a Birmingham consulting group to go after retail development.

Mayor Darrio Melton and Wayne Vardaman, director of the Selma and Dallas County Economic Development Authority, announced the plans Monday morning.

The EDA plans to enter a $25,000 contract with NextSite to study Selma’s business environment and potentially recruit new retailers. The agreement would likely be extended for a second and third year for a total of $75,000, according to Vardaman. The funds are coming from money set aside for incentives.

“It’s a big day for us at the EDA, and I know it is for the city,” Vardaman said. “The EDA is the catalyst behind this. We will have the contract. We will pay for it.”

The first phase of the contract will focus on research, analysis, and mapping to identify opportunities for retail development.

The second and third phases would involve linking Selma to interested developers and then retailers.

Working on retail development is outside the EDA’s wheelhouse for an organization focused on industry. However, Vardaman said the EDA’s board wanted to help Melton, and any retail development would only help with its work to recruit and retain industry.

“It is not a far reach when you think about quality of life. It has such an impact positively or negatively on our recruiting efforts,” Vardaman said. “The executive board decided we needed to get involved.”

The EDA’s board voted unanimously to fund the research and contract with NextSite.

“It became critical for us to improve quality of life so we can continue to attract industry,” said Davis Henry with Henry Brick Company. Henry will serve as the EDA’s chairman next year.

Fellow board member Catesby Jones with First Cahawba Bank said he thought the contract was a no-brainer.

“It was easy to see how the two complement each other — the industrial development and retail development,” Jones said. “It’s not only about creating and maintaining industrial jobs but, good grief, look how many jobs are created through retail. It’s all about job creation and quality of life.”

Melton said the EDA stepped up to help fund the research and work with NextSite.

“I knew that quality of living was a major concern in Selma. I felt it was very important that we build and grow our city,” Melton said. “We are grateful the EDA board and executive committee decided to partner with the city of Selma. We believe this shows collaboration about making the quality of living here in our city better.”

Both Vardaman and Melton talked about how an improved retail business environment would draw more people to live in Selma, including the 5,300 individuals who commute into and out of Dallas County for work every day.

“We are moving in the direction where people want to move into the city and won’t just drive here for employment,” Melton said.

NextSite has worked with municipalities across the country, including 35 in Alabama. Some of the retailers they have worked with include CVS, Hobby Lobby, PetSmart, Publix, TJ Maxx and Walmart.