Looking to capitalize on existing opportunities, members of the Oakdale City Council have approved spending $16,000 of Redevelopment Agency money to fund a retail business study.
The action came at the council’s final meeting in December. The study will assess the current retail environment in Oakdale and suggest improvements and possible retailers that the city should pursue.
The study will include two phases of retail assessment. The first will include field work to determine the current retail environment, the potential for new retail business, and the demographic of Oakdale shoppers. Council members and city staffers said that they need this information to help bring new businesses to Oakdale and stop losing sales tax dollars to surrounding cities.
The second stage of the retail assessment will focus specifically on supermarkets. It will include the same field studies as the first phase, with the addition of a study on the impact of seasonal tourism on the supermarket industry in Oakdale. The end goal of phase two is to present formal site marketing packages to up to four potential new supermarkets.
The contract for the economic development and retail needs assessment was awarded to MTN Retail Advisors, a company based out of Salt Lake City, Utah. Council member Tom Dunlop found MTN Retail Advisors at a booth in the National Retail Shipping Center Convention. The company mainly does site location research for retail companies, but they also advertise their services for the public sector. Dunlop pointed out that it could be an advantage to use an out-of-town company that is not working with any other cities in Stanislaus County, in order to avoid a conflict of business interests.
“Businesses have a lot of things in common, wherever the business is run,” added council member Michael Brennan.
Virginia Camacho, a member of the Oakdale Business Improvement District Advisory Board asked the council whether this study was something that staff could accomplish without spending $16,000 in RDA funds. Interim City Manager Gregory Wellman and Finance Director Albert Avila both said that staff did not have the time or resources to conduct a study on the scale that council members wanted.
Avila added that an economic study was an “allowable and appropriate use” of Redevelopment Agency funds because one of the goals of RDA funding is to stimulate economic growth. Oakdale City Council members voted 5-0 to use RDA funding for the study.
“This is a very small start towards the community understanding what we can support,” said Dunlop.
MTN Retail Advisors will give a presentation of their findings after each phase of the retail assessment.