Board of Commissioners holds work session about bringing businesses to town

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JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL)- Several years ago, Johnson City hired Retail Strategies to help the city attract retailers. Thursday- that company made its pitch to continue working for the city- and what has to happen for the city to attract new retailers.

“The thing that you really have going for you is a lot of regional retailers in your downtown area, I expect that to grow in a big way,” said John Ruzic, a portfolio director for Retail Strategies.

Ruzic says that now- the team has three major focal points.

“We want to focus on downtown property as much as we can, we also want to focus on the back fill of existing space, so vacant space, then we want to focus on categories,” said Ruzic.

Retail Strategies custom retail category GAP analysis for Johnson City.

Those categories are gaps where consumers are leaving the town to purchase clothing and accessories, electronics and appliances, sporting goods and furniture elsewhere.

A gap that is losing the community millions.

But with so many available spaces- its hard to tell when those stores will fill the current vacancies.

“Commercial or retail will follow rooftops, so when you begin to see rooftops, that’s when you oftentimes will begin to see retail,” says Preston Mitchell, Johnson City’s Development Services Director.

Rooftops are new single family or multi-family homes.

Preston says those developments will help areas like Boone’s creek and the site for a proposed new Publix grocery story on West Market Street and State of Franklin Road.

Proposed site for the Publix Grocery store

“All their plans have been submitted, many of their plans have been approved and are sitting and waiting,” Preston said of the grocer coming to town.

Publix has been for the city to finish the Lark Street Extension which will provide the grocer more entries and exits.

The Lark Street Extension

“The government needs to do everything it can to be open for business and to be business friendly to the development community,” says Mitchell.

But Mitchell and Ruzic both agree that the best way to attract new businesses to Johnson City is to continue to shop locally in the community.

“Just buy local. We have learned from not only this presentation but other informants over the summer who we’ve been speaking with that the ‘Amazon culture’, the online culture has not crushed brick and mortar retail,” said Mitchell.​

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