RANTOUL — The village board has voted to approve a $100,000 contract with a Texas retail economic development firm.
Trustee Chad Smith, chairman of the village's economic development advisory board, said the advisory board recommended a three-year contract with Retail Coach of Texas — the last of three firms to make presentations to the board in recent months.
Retail Coach's standard contract calls for $50,000 up front, but Smith said the company is willing to rework that arrangement.
"I said, 'Paying $50,000 before having anything in hand was kind of hard to swallow,'" Smith said he told a Retail Coach official.
As a result, an arrangement has been worked out that calls for the village to pay $20,000 upon execution of the contract, then $15,000 after completion of a demand analysis halfway through the project and an additional $15,000 upon completion of what the firm calls phase 6, which occurs 120 days from execution of the contract.
The village will pay $25,000 in each of the final two years of the contract. Each year, the company will update primary and secondary retail trade area demographic profiles, update a workplace population summary, identify and prepare retail site profiles for 10 available key properties, update retailer matching, continue retailer outreach and continue developer outreach and retail coaching.
Retail Coach Vice President Aaron Farmer toured Rantoul in early May with Mayor Chuck Smith and Chad Smith. He said one of the first things he noticed was the lack of "casual sit-down national brand restaurants."
Farmer told the village board in May that 60 percent of the retail businesses opening in the next year will be restaurants. "So that bodes well for this community's opportunities," he said.
Chad Smith told the village board that a study found that $17 million "walked out of Rantoul" in the form of people going to other towns to eat at national sit-down restaurants.
"Not that we're going to gain all of that," Smith said, "but if you could gain just 5 percent of that, you're talking about a substantial amount of business staying in Rantoul. If they're eating in Rantoul, maybe they're shopping at Wal-Mart. Once you build one restaurant, (other businesses) seem to follow.
"The thinking would change from 'Do I want to take a risk on Rantoul?' to 'I need to be in Rantoul.'"