Yelm Mayor JW Foster’s proposed budget for 2018 includes a three-year contract with Buxton Company to provide the city of Yelm analytics for retention and recruitment of businesses. The idea stems from Yelm’s first-ever economic development plan.

“What we are missing and what we are lacking is detailed expertise in not only analyzing the assets that we have but building bridges to other companies and retailers that are out there in the marketplace that we don’t have knowledge of,” Foster said.

Jacob Davis of Buxton Company presented to council on Tuesday and discussed the benefits of the service. He said Buxton finds the best retailers for each specific community and provides data for existing businesses to provide intel on what products consumers have to travel out of town to purchase.

“Increasing the sales in your local businesses and also new retail here, we are able to create additional revenue that will go toward your city budget each year,” Davis said. 

Davis cited that an average Chick-fil-A brings in about $3.1 million in annual revenue. The city would receive more than $24,000 in annual taxes from the chain if it located here. He said Buxton finds the unique features of cities and will connect the city with the “right fit” for retailers and restaurants.

“That was the big factor for me,” Yelm City Administrator Michael Grayum said. “Not just having someone connect us to anyone but to really be able to tailor it to not only our opportunities but our challenges.”

Buxton collects data from businesses around the U.S. to provide cities the data to “think like a retailer.” Davis said they have to go beyond the demographic data and understand who the citizens are as consumers because demographic data does not go into enough detail of what consumers in the local area want. The data then shows the businesses how populated the area is with consumers searching for a specific product.

The software then determines what draws consumers in from surrounding areas that could “add thousands” to the city’s population. While compiling information, Buxton then looks at drive time and distance those consumers are willing to travel. Davis said they also look at the target market to find what type of advertising works for each consumer. All information would be available to Yelm businesses through City Hall.

Councilor Molly Carmody expressed concern about the city recruiting larger business chains and giving them an advantage over established local businesses. 

Davis responded that Buxton does not intend to pile on business models that are already in place but instead, they try to “fill the gap.” He did admit more businesses add more competition to the existing businesses, but the additional businesses bring in more foot traffic to the city and give people options.

“You’re not just thinking about the business community,” Councilor Jennifer Littlefield said. “You also have to think about our citizens and the majority of our citizens are consumers and you’ve got to think about the consumers, citizens and our voters and how far they have to travel to purchase things. You don’t want to keep businesses out because they are going to compete with businesses that are here. Businesses that are here need to have a good business plan that can compete.”



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