downtown Scottsbluff

A view of Broadway in Scottsbluff, looking north from the roof of the Lincoln House Apartments.

SCOTTSBLUFF — When prospective businesses might be interested in coming to the area, they want to know what types of buildings are available. Twin Cities Development (TCD) is making that possible.

Keith Ellis, TCD community and economic development director, said the idea for the initiative came out of their 2018 annual meeting. Former Star-Herald publisher Greg Awtry asked what could be done to encourage lead generation activity in the retail sector and to fill some of the empty buildings throughout the community.

“We took on this initiative to really understand our retail property market and what’s available so we can find tenants for them,” Ellis said. “We’ve sent letters to 550 property owners with buildings in Scotts Bluff County to ask for their help in getting their property included in our database.”

Ellis said that while many of the buildings are owned by local residents, other owners are located from New York to California.

In addition to photos of the building, the listing will include the property’s physical address, building history, square footage, any special features about the property and types of neighboring businesses.

“We’re still in the initial phase where we’re explaining to the owners what we’re doing,” Ellis said. “Once we help them understand, I think we’ll get a lot more input.

Once the database is set up, TCD plans to do some “gap analysis” of what other types of businesses would be a fit for identified properties. That analysis would include the potential for a certain type of business based on location. With any business, a major consideration is traffic patterns and how much exposure a business can expect from the public.

“Our final phase will be to target specific kinds of retail or franchise businesses for particular locations,” Ellis said. “We handle about 40 business startup inquiries a year as well as offer initial support for them.”

He said traffic and complementary surrounding businesses are important factors when determining what kind of business is best suited to a particular building.

“Whenever we get retail inquiries for potential businesses, they always ask for traffic count maps,” Ellis said.

He emphasized that TCD isn’t doing anything that would have a negative impact on the local real estate industry. Instead, they’re helping extend the real estate marketing reach into new areas.

“Real estate companies already have all the data on commercial buildings they’re listing,” he said. “We don’t want to duplicate their efforts. We’re looking at different types of retail in markets within a 500-mile radius of our community to see if the interest is there.”

Through this marketing initiative, TCD hopes to let prospects know we have space available, whether it’s for new franchises, new business ventures, expansions or relocations. After that, it’s the responsibility of the business owner and the property owner.

“We can only do our part in making sure people know the buildings are available,” Ellis said. “We have no control over whether an owner wants to price the property far above market value. It’s their business decision to make.”

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Jerry Purvis is a reporter with the Star-Herald. He can be reached at 308-632-9046 or emailed at jpurvis@starherald.com.

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