By STEVEN NALLEY
The Greater Starkville Development Partnership board discussed wayfinding signage, retail analysis and employee recruitment, among other issues, at its meeting Friday.
Jennifer Gregory, GSDP vice president and chief operating officer, gave a presentation on a wayfinding signage system for the city of Starkville funded by $10,000 from the Starkville Convention and Visitors Bureau and $10,000 from the city beautification fund. She said she will give the same presentation to the Starkville Board of Aldermen Mar. 20, asking city staff to install the signs as an in-kind service. The plans call for some current city signs to be removed and replaced with the wayfinding signs, but she said her Mar. 20 request will not include permission for removal, focusing only on the in-kind services for the time being.
If the city gives its approval, Gregory said it will take 30 days afterward to fabricate the signs, which means the first few signs will not be installed in time for Super Bulldog Weekend as she had originally hoped. She said she and City Engineer Edward Kemp currently plan to install the signs in three phases.
“I would just like for all of them to be up by football season,” Gregory said. “I think that would be beneficial.”
Gregory incorporated an information packet into her presentation which shows signs of varying sizes for varying road types. Each of the signs features the official logo the city of Starkville adopted in December 2010 for its flag and correspondence atop a series of panels with destinations and directional arrows. These panels are interchangeable, Gregory said, and as new developments such as the Cotton Mill project’s convention center come to fruition, new panels for these new destinations can be added.
Gregory said inspiration for the signs’ motifs came from other signage projects in the Starkville area, including black borders from signs on the MSU campus and square icons from street signs in Starkville’s historic districts. Clyde Pritchard, owner of Pritchard Engineering, is set to provide services for the Cotton Mill project, and he said he was interested in using similar motifs for signage within the convention center and at the property’s other landmarks.
Jon Maynard, GSDP president, gave a presentation on a service called SCOUT, provided by Buxton, to which the GSDP has subscribed at an 80 percent discount offered by the Tennessee Valley Authority. He said SCOUT provides retail analysis data which, for example, allows the city to determine how retail dollars consumers within 20 minutes of Starkville are leaking into other communities.
“What it says here is we have the potential for over $428 million of retail sales, when our actual sales are $389 (million),” Maynard said. “So, we’re actually leaking about 10 percent of our retail sales at somebody else’s community. Most of that’s going to Columbus and Tupelo. It’s also going out to Birmingham, Memphis, Jackson (and) larger places.”
Maynard said Buxton can also break down retail leakage by store type, and it can also find store types where Starkville is exceeding its potential. For instance, he said, Starkville is exceeding its potential in stores selling sporting goods, books and music, but it is well beneath its potential for electronics and appliance stores.
Maynard said the city’s demographics could explain some of the leakage figures. For instance, several board members were curious about Buxton’s report showing small leakage in food and beverage stores.
“My thoughts on the groceries are: This takes into account college students, and college students aren’t necessarily buying groceries,” Maynard said. “They’re buying dining plans and things like that.”
Austin Shafer, GSDP vice president for membership and the chamber of commerce, also gave a report at the meeting on a new project to help recruits for Starkville businesses see the city from an angle not always seen in human resources.
“Every time a recruit comes into Starkville from somewhere else, one or two of our ambassadors are going to take them through Starkville and show them their Starkville,” Shafer said. “They’ll actually show them kind of the inner workings, hangouts and little places, and actually show them that they love the community; this is why they need to be here.”
Shafer said the chamber of commerce is also working with MSU’s communications department to develop 30-second and one-minute clips asking students, faculty and others to show the GSDP their Starkville. He said he wants these clips to appear on the GSDP’s e-mail newsletter, social media and the GSDP’s website.
“We want to show that on a grand scale,” Shafer said. “(We want to show) the positive parts of Starkville, not just the Cotton District (and) not just Main Street.”