The message we’re sending out there is that Bullhead City is open for business,” said Bullhead City Manager Toby Cotter.
The success of the approach can be seen in the recent openings or announcement of impending openings of businesses such as Smart and Final Extra and Hobby Lobby, Cotter said. Those business relationships began at the International Council of Shopping Centers conference in Las Vegas.
“The opportunity to connect is significant,” Cotter said. “The conference gives us the opportunity to meet prospective developers and retail outlets. It’s a wonderful place for us.”
The ICSC is an international association serving the global retail real estate industry bringing together developers, owners, brokers, lenders, product and service providers with representatives of municipalities through its annual and regional conferences. About 35,000 people attend the ICSC annual convention.
Cotter, along with Bullhead City Mayor Tom Brady, council members Steve D’Amico and Annette Wegmann, and city administrative analyst Sheila Betts recently spent three days at the annual ICSC conference in Las Vegas, telling the story of Bullhead City.
“We do our best to introduce Bullhead City to people from across the country and talk to developers and potential new businesses that are looking at expansion,” Cotter said.
City officials have been attending ICSC conferences for about five years.
“It takes time to cultivate relationships and to help (retailers) find spots,” Cotter said. “When you talk to professionals throughout the country, there are malls and stores closing all over the place, so it’s really important for us that we keep a sharp focus on working on our economy.”
Cotter highlighted the enduring relationships made at ICSC with an example from several years ago when residents who live on the north side told the city they needed better services
in their neighborhood. The city contacted a developer originally identified at the ICSC convention who was already active in the area — Family Dollar. The retailer opened a new location near Landon Drive and McCormick Boulevard serving 3,000 to 4,000 people in the area.
“We know there is a need, we know there is a developer and we know that we can hook a developer up with need,” Cotter said.
Those relationships also matter for the future, Cotter said.
“When Costco wants to locate to this area — they’re not ready to do that yet — I want them to be in the city,” he said. “Of course Kingman and Havasu would love them to be in their communities, but I want them to be here. I think we are and want to continue to be the retail hub of Mohave County and of southern Clark County and we’re going to keep doing everything we can do to attain that.”
Cotter noted the market for attracting new retail is very competitive.
“For places like Bullhead City, where our retail businesses provide a significant amount of our general fund revenue and thousands of jobs throughout the community, there has to be people on staff who can take that initiative and make sure that prospective retailers, retail developers, restaurants and new franchises know that Bullhead City cares and that we are very interested in their business,” Cotter said.
The most critical thing about the conference is making the contacts, Cotter said, but the most important piece of that relationship is following through.
“I think our whole team, the mayor and council members, myself and Sheila — the message we spread is that Bullhead City would appreciate their business,” Cotter said. “We strive to help them make it through our business practices, our building processes, like building licensing and zoning and businesses reviews and we’ll make it as quick and painless as possible.”
The city also plans to attend a smaller regional ICSC convention in October.
“Based on all of the things that are happening right now, we definitely want to take advantage of that momentum in October with the Los Angeles show,” Cotter said.
Cotter declined to name names, but said new and interesting things are on the horizon.
“There’s definitely great news in our future and we’re actively working with a number of new people who are looking at our area, which is really exciting for us,” Cotter said.