No Bull, No Fluff, No Smudges
Your news source for
Flagler, Florida and Beyond

In Palm Coast’s Expensive Hunt for New Retailers, a Few Leads, But Only Low Wages

| April 26, 2016

save a lot palm coast

Headed to Palm Coast? (Jason Miller)

Last July Palm Coast signed a $135,000, three-year contract with a Texas-based marketing company to help the city recruit new retailers, fill empty storefront or build new ones, and spur the local economy. Tuesday morning, the company gave its first progress report to the Palm Coast City Council.

The firm Palm Coast retained is called the Buxton Company, whose Matt Tate, a senior account executive, presented an update alongside Palm Coast’s Beau Falgout, the city’s point man on economic development.

There was a great deal of the economic jargon that invariably accompanies presentations heavy on marketing data and optimistic speculation but still short on results. But in the end, it was a glass half-full, half-empty sort of thing: there was not a single success to speak of, but there are possibilities with at least two retailers: Save a Lot and the Cato Corporation, the women’s fashions retailer, though it’s not certain that the companies’ interests in Palm Coast is directly related to the city’s recruitment efforts. “Lots of times we don’t really know how they found us,” City Manager Jim Landon said. “It’s a combination of things.”

There are a few other distant possibilities with Longhorn Steakhouse, Buffalo Wild Wings, and BJ’s, but those are on a horizon measured in years, not months, if then.

And in every case, the retailers offer mostly low-wage jobs that would be below living wage measures, and the businesses would generate revenue for themselves that, for the most part, would be sucked out of the local economy and transferred to retailers’ headquarters and shareholders. That’s on the assumption that any of the prospects do open a store locally. Council members, however, have not been concerned about the low wages. Their focus is exclusively on filling storefront, and on getting on big retailers’ radar in order to convince them to open locally. (By way of comparison, Island Walk, the renovated shopping center that used to be Palm Harbor, has filled the majority of its storefronts without government help.)

“Everybody says OK, it’s been six months, well, what have you done for us,” Landon said. “These retailers have a one-year plan, and if we weren’t on the radar and we get on the radar, they’re not all of a sudden going top announce Palm Coast is our next store, because they’re building three or four that they already had in the pipeline. So the key to it is to become that fifth or sixth. And when someone has five to seven [stores] they’re going to build this year, and you don’t make five or seven but hopefully you were in their top 70, well then, next year you try it again, because they’re going to have another five to seven next year.”

“But Mr. Landon that’s the kind of data that we need because we are investing tax money into promoting Buxton, and so from time to time it’s reasonable that, OK, this is what we’ve done for you lately,” council member Bill McGuire said. That, Landon said, was the reason for today’s presentation.

Tate described the laborious process Buxton goes through to determine which retailers might be the best fit for Palm Coast. Buxton looks at “thousands of retailers,” he said, to match them with the city’s customer base, winnowing down the numbers based on the type of customers available. For example, according to Buxton’s analysis, almost a fifth of Palm Coast’s households are termed “L41” (that jargon again), what it refers to as “older empty-nesting couples and singles enjoying relaxed lives in small towns,” the sort of people who have disposable incomes, who go on cruises, buy hybrid cars and read science and technology magazines. But a tenth of households are “Q64’s,” or “town elders,” essentially older people on fixed incomes. Buxton crunches those and other findings to come up with a list of companies that would be good targets for recruitment.

Optimism but no solid data to show that the $135,000 investment is what led to a few glimmers.

Mayor Jon Netts asked how Buxton knows what the retailers themselves are looking for. That’s a combination of data accrued from the retailers—at least those that cooperate with Buxton, and there are a few—and extrapolation of that data to make assumptions about other retailers. Tate described Buxton’s experience with a frozen yogurt company that offers kosher yogurt. “Wherever they’ve located near a Jewish synagogue, they would have a boost in their sales,” Tate said, “so those types of things would be worked into performance type metrics.”

Next comes the “pursuit package,” a fancy term that boils down to Buxton sending information about Palm Coast to a targeted retailer as an introduction to Falgout’s follow-up calls and emails. Buxton itself doesn’t recruit so much as it prepares some groundwork for Falgout to do the work.

When asked how different the Buxton era is from the time when Falgout was working on his own, he explained: “I would say my time was used inefficiently, whereas obviously Buxton it’s kind of like getting qualified leads.” Those leads can come from developers, from Buxton, from real estate brokers. It’s Falgout’s job to connect the dots and “build those relationships.” Some retailers have shown interest in the Kohl’s area, but are not happy with its lack of visibility. They could be made happier, the city found, if the lots can be reconfigured, but that’s a long-term project that involves the owner and others.

When it came down to more tangible retailers Buxton and the city targeted, the list started with about 20, though several of those had to be excised: Aldi, the grocer, was one of them, but Aldi was already interested—on its own—in opening a location at the corner of State Road 100 and Belle Terre Parkway. Sports Authority was one of them, but it’s in bankruptcy. Dick’s, another sporting goods store, was one of them, but its not interested in Palm Coast. Others included Chili’s, McCalister’s, Big Lots, Rue 21, Marshalls, Carter’s and Applebee’s, which are still being targeted.

The single best prospect turned out to be Save-A-Lot, a low-cost grocer. “They’re searching for the right and sustainable location,” Tate said, referring to his discussions with the company’s development manager for the southeast, “he said that he believes that Palm Coast could sustain two Save-A-Lot locations. For now, he said, “it’s really just trying to find the right spot. He mentioned he’d move into the Kohl’s parking lot in a heartbeat.”

“So of these potential retailers, where would we be if not for Buxton?” council member Steven Nobile asked.

“I don’t know that the door would be open or conversations would be going on,” Falgout said. “Would they be looking at us? Yeah, some of these larger corporations either hire Buxton or other groups out there, so they may be looking at you. I believe just being in this process for now six months is that’s really a relationship business and do you make it higher up on the list—do you ever know? Maybe not.”

Buxton Recruitment Update (2016)

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

16 Responses for “In Palm Coast’s Expensive Hunt for New Retailers, a Few Leads, But Only Low Wages”

  1. wishful thinking says:

    Absolutely flabbergasting! The only experts on ‘selling our area’ are those who already ‘ bought into it!”.. A firm from Texas obviously has not chosen our area for their ‘home base’ so how the hell can they be expected to find retailers ‘we locals’ would benefit from.. A waste of money and unused local talent . Amazing – lunacy must be the newest requirement around here

  2. susan jones says:

    Yes we will spend hundreds of thousands of dollars hiring firms to do what we could of done ourselves. Bring in more low paying store fronts offering part time , min wage jobs with no benefits. Great way to get the community out of its economic hardships. We would of been Better off if we took the money we throw at all these outside firms and focus groups and put it in the community to help our seniors and families that have been struggling for years with this poor economy. Our biggest employer in this community PCD is going under , this town is all ways going to attracted low based companies because the 3/5 or more of the community is dirt poor.

  3. Gladfly says:

    You can waste all the money you want on these so called “experts” and so on but the fact remains retail and restaurants don’t pay but minimum wage. If you’re not retired,and I don’t mean on Social Security, you might want to move to Jax,Gainesville,or Orlando. There is VERY little work here that pays anything.

  4. BIG JOHN says:

    Why doesn’t the city try to promote locally-owned businesses instead of corporate chains. This way the money will stay in town and not Wall Street. Also, give big rental discounts to those who are willing to open a business….isn’t that better than all those vacancies? We need to elect some more creative people who think outside the box. Just a thought.

  5. Rob says:

    The city could have taken the millions of dollars that they dedicated to the golf course and tennis center and pursued a company or companies that would provide living wage careers.

  6. Flagler, Palm JOKE! says:

    Real smart, spend money to discover what we already know. How about keeping future monies and giving these businesses a breaks on their taxes and the made up impact fees they incur. This would be a good gesture of that the community is truly interested in doing business.

  7. steve miller says:

    You have to advertise in the NYC market place to attract any new business …they have to know Palm Coast exists then they can look see and decide if Palm Coast if profitable enough to commit to our area …..

  8. Flatsflyer says:

    The City screwed up big time by moving City Hall from the Market Place to the waste land at Town Center. The Market Place is now half empty and not much is forecasted to improve that situation. As far as this outfit from Texas is concerned, I would highly recommend that we cut our losses ASAP. Non of the new business’s that opened in Island Walk where the result of Buxton or even City efforts. Eliminate some of the silly restrictions and make opening a business easier and we will see better results.

  9. Dean Carpenter says:

    Here is an idea. Many presidential candidates are promising a $15 minimum wage. This seems rather arbitrary to me and completely detached from financial responsibility but if your are going to jump off a cliff why not make it a high one? Palm Coast needs to pass a progressive law arbitrarily setting the Palm Coast minimum wage at $100 an hour. This would immediately eliminate low paying jobs and draw the best retail labor from around the world. With this talented labor pool all retailers would establish businesses here.

    I can practically smell the cash!

  10. mike says:

    I think you meant Bunnell. But you mention Palm Coast as the target area. Anyway, after having done many of these deals before, They are just going to take your money and deliver nothing. The city has to be considered a destination and its not.

  11. K says:

    Tate doesn’t think much of Palm Coast if he’s wooing Save A Lot to come here. They are a store that has always gone into distressed areas with low incomes and high rates of food stamps.

  12. SunnyM says:

    Many people always mention Trader Joe’s in these comments and this Bozo wants to woo Save A Lot? Wow is HE ever on a different planet!

  13. Just me says:

    IMO its a waist of OUR $$ to have local government try to convince chain stors to open here. They have their own ways of looking to where to open new stores we dont need to pay anyone to say look over here. That being said not ALL jobs are min/wage at such places. I know Lowes is/was hiring PT some 3 or 4$ over min. Also management at the stores is at a good pay. If governments are to use our $$ for trying to bring in new jobs it should center on manufacturing and high skill jobs/Corps as that is where high pay will be.

  14. Dave says:

    So just because Palm Coast is made up of ” But a tenth of households are “Q64’s,” or “town elders,” essentially older people on fixed income” , so the rest of us will suffer with poor shopping choices as we drive to Ormond and Daytona to spend our money in another county, that’s freaking brilliant.

  15. corey g says:

    At this point I would settle for a Racetrack gas station at SR 100 and Seminole Woods Parkway. What has happened to this promised addition to South Palm Coast. Nobody speaks of it anymore. The land was cleared, prepared and then planted with grass seed like that failed tire dealership in roughly the same area a couple of years ago. And Walmart on Old Kings Rd. The silence is deafening. Someone???

  16. Palmcoaster says:

    Once the retailers figure out the arrogance and shenanigansplayed by the City ManagerJim Landon, Attorney Reichmann, Mayor John Netts and Council members McGuire, and DeLorenzo they probably won’t bring retail business here either. Palm Coast is known for being the “unfriendly city” and is known for being corrupt is why so many people are fleeing out of here.The County’s reputation is no different thanks to County Commissioners McLaughlin, Meeker, Revels, Hanns and Ericksen. Even the Sheriff has shown his colors. Our taxes are going up because spending is out of control, gas is .20 a gallon more in Flagler than in Volusia and Flagler County leaders can’t figure out why those who live in Flagler go else where outside of Flagler County to do their business. Retailers alone are not going to bring healthy paying jobs to Flagler County. ITT knew what was going to happen to this county that’s why they came in, made their fortune and bailed. Crime is up, taxes are up, people are fleeing and the tax payers and voters have their face in their smart phone and are failing to see what is going on around them.

Leave a Reply

FlaglerLive's forum, as noted in our comment policy, is for debate and conversation that adds light and perspective to articles. Please be courteous, don't attack fellow-commenters or make personal attacks against individuals in stories, and try to stick to the subject. All comments are moderated.

Read FlaglerLive's Comment Policy | Subscribe to the Comment Feed rss flaglerlive comment feed rss

More stories on FlaglerLive

FlaglerLive Email Alerts

Enter your email address to get alerts.


suppert flaglerlive flagler live palm coast flagler county news pierre tristam florida
fcir florida center for investigative reporting

Recent Comments

FlaglerLive is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization | P.O. Box 254263, Palm Coast, FL 32135 | Contact the Editor by email | (386) 586-0257 | Sitemap | Log in