Economic development consulting company to ask for contract extension

BURTON — An economic development consulting company will be back before city council Jan. 18 to ask for an extension of its contract at no cost to Burton taxpayers.

Mayor Duane Haskins told the council, Dec. 21, Retail Coach will come to the second council meeting in January to give an overview of what it has done the past year and to ask for a contract extension.

“They want to extend the contract because, obviously, things have been shut down due to COVID,” said Haskins. “This would obviously at no fee, until the end of March 2021. They’ll do a presentation and update the council.”

The council voted in November 2019 to pay Retail Coach for the services of an economic development consulting company.

The council voted 5-2 Oct. 7, 2019 to hire the company for $43,000 to study the city’s economic base and determine strategies to retain existing businesses, while trying to attract new ones that will fit the city’s needs.

Councilman Vaughn Smith said in 2019 he thinks Retail Coach will provide valuable information to the city to help in retaining businesses and attracting some new ones.

“This company has survived and flourished doing what they do,” said Smith. “It’s a one-year contract. We can’t sit back; we have to do things. It’s smart of our city to do this.”

Aaron Farmer, president of The Retail Coach, a Tupelo, Mississippi-based company, told the council in 2019 his staff would look at the city’s overall economic profile to determine where its strong, what its lacking and to find retail opportunities.

The company was also supposed to look at things like casual sit-down restaurants, clothing stores and entertainment to see where the biggest gaps are. However, with the onset of COVID-19 and the subsequent shutdown in early 2020, the project was put on hold.

Councilmen Tom Martinbianco and Dennis O’Keefe voted against the hiring of Retail Coach last year.