By Ricky O'Bannon
STILLWATER, Okla. —
Stillwater city councilors will look at bringing in an outside company to determine just what retail businesses and restaurants the city should be targeting with incentives to come to town.
Buxton is a consulting company based in Fort Worth, Texas. The Stillwater Public Works Authority, on which city councilors serve, will consider a $50,000 contract to hire Buxton to do retail matching.
Retail matching, according to a proposal submitted by Buxton, provides data and marketing materials and strategies to help recruit commercial businesses that would be interested in Stillwater.
Following a decision last fall to provide up to $500,000 in tax incentives to bring an Olive Garden restaurant to Stillwater, city officials have been more focused on creating a comprehensive plan for business recruitment.
Mayor John Bartley, who at the time was a city councilor, voted against the Olive Garden incentive package, saying the city needed a better over-arching plan and specific criteria to decide when to give incentives rather than its piecemeal system.
Shortly afterward, the councilors held a study session to analyze the city’s business recruitment strategy. Two main themes during that session were that the city should figure out what businesses it should recruit and where they should go.
Since then the city has looked at the where question, creating a redevelopment area southeast of the Oklahoma State University campus and a new development district along Highway 51 in western Stillwater.
Officials have said each of those areas could be targets for various incentives. Councilors have also talked about similar districts on Main and Boomer north of Sixth Avenue as well as Highway 177 and Highway 51 as they enter Stillwater from the south and east.
The Buxton contract would be part of the what question. Sales tax is the primary funding method for cities and towns in Oklahoma. City Manager Dan Galloway has said it is important to figure out what businesses area residents are leaving Stillwater to shop elsewhere or what businesses would attract outside residents to shop in Stillwater, both of which affect city revenues.
Additionally, figuring out what business demands are or are not met would prevent the city from providing incentives to a new company that would cause an existing business to fail, which several residents argued was what could happen with the Olive Garden incentives.
According to the contract, $25,000 of the cost would be paid upfront, another $12,500 would be paid during the three months of the contract and the final $12,500 would be paid upon completion.
The Stillwater Public Works Authority will meet following the City Council and Stillwater Utilities Authority meetings, which are scheduled to begin 5:30 p.m. Monday in the council hearing room of the Municipal Building, 723 S. Lewis St.