I have noted from time-to-time laments by readers of the Tribune concerning the lack of big box stores or shopping centers in Madera. I share in these laments.
At times, however, the lack of these facilities is attributed to ineffectiveness on the part of elected officials. Working for a number of chain stores over the past 35 years, I can attest to the fact that the willingness of elected officials in a particular area has very little to do with the decision to position a retail unit. Although it is true that the local tax structure and initial construction costs have some impact on the decision, ultimately the decision is based upon socio-economic factors.
When examining potential sites there are a number of factors that companies use. These factors include but are not necessarily limited to the size of the community and its surrounding area, census data, and physically visiting the community under consideration. Predominant factors that are considered for the positioning of mid to upscale retail units include:
- Economic factors relating to the average or median income of families living in and around the community.
- The educational level of potential customers living within a particular radius of the community. It is assumed that the higher the level of education the greater the expendible income and the greater the likelihood that specialized retail units will succeed.
- The potential of a return-on-investment within a specific period of time.
- Projected economic growth of the community over the next five to 10 years.
- Success or failure of various types of retail units built over the past five to 10 years. Questions related to this criteria include the types of retail units that are successful as well as the companies that have decided to leave the community.
- Availability of a labor force that meets the criteria of the company.
Madera does not presently meet the criteria set by many retailers. The average income level and the average educational level in Madera and the surrounding area does not meet the basic critera set by many national chains or specialty stores. Failure to meet the first two criteria impacts negatively the potential return-on-investment. Utilizing historical data relating to population and income growth over the past five to 10 years, Madera’s projected economic growth over the next five to 10 years is not promising enough to positively impact the confidence level of national retailers as it relates to future economic growth.
The types of retail units operating successfully in Madera and the types and number of empty stores relate to the fifth factor taken into consideration.
Although I believe that we have in Madera and the surrounding area a labor force capable of meeting most retail company’s personnel critera, the availability of such a labor force is not in most cases the determining factor.
I am certain that our local politicians would love to have mid- to upscale retail units built in Madera. Unfortunately, Madera does not presently meet the criteria set by most national chains.