Jamestown will take part in the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development’s Retail Academy program later this month.
Leann Smith is the Director of the Fentress County Chamber of Commerce. She said the program gives local officials tools to recruit and retain retail businesses.
“Every community has their ‘shop at home’ campaign,” Smith said. “But once you apply the numbers that are applied through Retail Academy to your community, specifically, you really know how to try to start retaining those dollars.”
The Tennessee Retail Academy program is designed to educate city leaders on retail and business recruitment, real estate and small business support. Eighty-eight Tennessee communities have gone through the program since the Retail Academy and TNECD partnership began. In 2019, the program’s estimated economic impact was 74 new businesses, approximately 1,000 jobs and $14.2 million in local and state tax revenue.
Smith said this will be Jamestown’s third trip to the Retail Academy. She will take part in the Distressed Community Pilot Initiative. The Pilot Initiative allows communities who have been through all three phases of the Retail Academy program to continue engagement with a team of professional retail consultants for further, in-depth retail recruitment services.
The program is important, Smith said, because retail recruitment is evolving. She said the Retail Academy helps communities keep up with the new trends.
“Retailers are looking for different things,” Smith said. “As years go by, that kind of information changes, so this academy has really given us some tools to be equipped to face those changes and to be able to provide retailers what they are looking for.”
In addition to staying on top of trends, Smith said the Retail Academy helps leaders zero in on retailers that would be a right fit for their community.
“We’ve also learned what retailers we are good for, and who is looking to be in a community like Jamestown,” Smith said. “I think that it’s good in that, particullary with the pandemic that’s been going on, just shopping locally and retaining our dollars, we’re seeing a lot more of that.”
The nature of the community in Jamestown is something Smith said she believes makes Jamestown an attractive place for retailers. She said in a small community, people like to invest their money locally.
“I think that we are a strong-rooted community,” Smith said. “We are a little off the beaten path, but I think the tight-knit consumerism we have here can be a really strong point for any retailer.”
The Retail Academy is scheduled for August 13 and 14 in Franklin. Smith said she hopes to find information that helps grow existing retailers in Jamestown.
“I’m really excited about being able to have data that can help us expand existing businesses,” Smith said. “This isn’t all just about recruiting new retail spaces into our community. It’s really about being able to revitalize some of our existing properties and to be able to supply local people with opportunities and fill gaps that are being unmet. That’s my greatest interest in the program.”
Smith said she believes Jamestown is ripe for growth. She said she hopes the Retail Academy gives Jamestown and Fentress County officials a good foundation to continue to attract new business.
“If you are from Jamestown, then you’ve seen some evolution of what retail was and what it is now,” Smith said. “I think we are kind of on a front-end of a growth spurt in the City of Jamestown, particularly with our downtown area.”