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Professional retail consultant counsels business owners




Aaron Farmer Retail CoachLast fall, the Ottawa City Council hired The Retail Coach, of Tupelo, Miss., to assist in ongoing efforts to attract national retailers.


At that time, Mayor Robert Eschbach explained the professional consultants would be awarded a 16-month contract for $47,000 to examine Ottawa's retail community, to offer suggestions as to what new retail outlets might work best in the city and then make efforts to lure those targeted businesses.


The Retail Coach since has developed a large amount of local market research and is using the information to make the case for Ottawa to a carefully targeted list of national companies.


Wednesday night, business owners and hopeful entrepreneurs were given their first exposure to that research to help them make future retail decisions.


Hosted by Retail Coach Vice Present Aaron Farmer, the seminar pointed out dozens of potential business opportunities likely to succeed in Ottawa based on a detailed community profile and the area's demographics to support businesses of those types.


"The goal is to keep customers, your customers, in the immediate Ottawa trade area and not shop elsewhere," said Farmer. "It is our job to identify where the gaps or leakage are occurring in the local retail segment and look at those figures as an opportunity for future sales."


He told attendees, according to his company's research, Ottawa is losing close to $100 million in sales per year that it easily could retain. Farmer said his firm has started promoting Ottawa to national and regional businesses to close that gap.


"Ottawa is unique. Ottawa is awesome. Your downtown is happening," said Farmer. He said, if used properly, the data his company is compiling would be very helpful in expanding existing businesses and starting new businesses.


Farmer and Corinne Cantrall, who recently moved to Ottawa from Homewood, welcomed the information as the couple contemplates opening a new business in town themselves. They agree demographic data could be useful.


Beyond a hard focus on expanding retail in the downtown area, Ottawa also is developing a centralized strategy to promote economic development including:


• A $4.7 million expansion and enhancement of the Ottawa Industrial Park funded largely by federal grants that enhance Ottawa with one of the most business-ready and business-friendly industrial parks in the state.


• The use of streetscaping and historic preservation to attract unique stores and therefore, visitors to downtown Ottawa. Using grant money, the comprehensive planning process underway by the city will focus heavily on the Illinois River frontage area and Ottawa's tourism potential.


• The attraction of specialized retail businesses and new restaurants to the Interstate 80 and East Norris Drive entry corridors.






Contact Information

Steve Stoudt,, 815-431-4082