On Tuesday morning, the Retail Development Task Force met with Newton city staff for the purpose of prioritizing items that could be redrafted and recommended to the city commission during its upcoming meeting on March 25.

Some selected (or priority) items included the establishment of a community "landing page" or resource repository, the purchasing or gathering of research data for purposes of development, retention and expansion and establishing firm metrics for evaluating development proposals – especially those that would require investment of city/public funds.

Prioritizing objectives related to marketing and branding is a complex task that will require a lot of thought, conversation with marketing professionals and community input.

For that reason, the task force decided to draft recommendations for the commission that dealt with retail retention and recruitment, but decided to conduct further conversations on marketing/branding during a meeting tentatively scheduled for April 4.

Signage was an additional topic for potential recommendation, but that will also require careful consideration, as the creation of useful signage might need to happen after adequate branding has been established.

Throughout the task force's meeting, Newton Director of Community Planning and Development Kelly Bergeron walked task force members through a detailed outline/draft of their earlier comments and recommendations.

The task force addressed the need to develop evaluation metrics for determining what developments qualify for public funding.

Items that could be considered include the number of business inquiries, the number of businesses, the number of new commercial buildings, the number of building permits or the number of jobs created.

Discussions about metrics also touched on the need to see a return on investment and to conduct adequate cost/benefit analysis on potential city investments.

The task force also agreed to recommend a community "landing page" or resource repository, which would be located on either the Economic Development Council's (EDC) website or on the Newton Area Chamber of Commerce's website.

Such a repository could list resources such as small business loans and grants, demographics about the community, traffic counts and a property inventory list.

Another recommendation, in relation to the resource repository, is to develop a list of available properties throughout town, as well demographics and other information about those properties (such as property dimensions).

An additional recommendation was to identify other existing resources for retailers, which could be included in the suggested resource repository.

Those resources could also include the Newton Development Guide (ReNewton), and information on the Neighborhood Revitalization Program (NRP), the City Revolving Loan Fund, Network Kansas Small Business Loans, the Chamber, the EDC and the South Central Kansas Economic Development District (SCKEDD).

The task force had previously expressed interest regarding gathering and/or purchasing data for development, retention and expansion purposes.

Bergeron said some of that data can be gathered in-house and some may need to be purchased, such as the gap/leakage analysis, consumer spending data and mobile data analysis.

The task force is not planning on a recommendation that would include hiring a retail recruitment firm at this time. Instead, Bergeron said similar data to what those recruitment firms use could be purchased for roughly $7,000 to $10,000 annually.

Bergeron said that cost might need to occur annually because that data is constantly changing, but staff will get a feel for how often it needs to be purchased after they have had some experience using it.