There aren’t many big name retailers or restaurants in Downtown Belton. Instead, locally owned stores and restaurants, like the Sarsaparilla Saloon and Café, line the streets. "I am in the restaurant business because I was told I was a good cook," owner Tammy Wilson said. Wilson was born and raised in the community. She said she’s seen plenty of businesses come and go in the city.
Now, city leaders are hoping to attract more regional, state and national retail chains into the area. "There's growth and development pressures coming our way and we want to be aggressive about taking those opportunities and developing into something that's good for Belton," Belton Economic Development Executive Director Tommy Baker said. According to Baker, proactively reaching out to big retailers has always been a challenge for the city. In order to change the "let it be" approach, city leaders are considering enlisting the help of a Texas-based retail consulting firm.
A representative of the firm made a presentation about what they’d bring to the table to members of the Belton Chamber of Commerce, city council and economic development board. Firm services include three to four months of market research in the community which will include demographic information and identify gaps in services that exist in the community. After the data is collected, the information will be collected and presented to prospective retailers. "We want more activity. We want more people to know about Belton and to come talk business," Baker said.
Belton is currently home to retailers like Wal-Mart and a brand new HEB is under construction. Baker said there are always more opportunities. "We have a lot of leakage to outlying communities and it’s something we’d like to correct," he said. The more retail opportunities offered in surrounding cities means a loss of sales tax and property tax revenue for Belton. Baker said drawing these retailers to the community can benefit locally owned businesses as well. "When people come to shop at those retailers, they're going to say, 'Let's go get yogurt or get some coffee or lunch and dinner,'" he said.
City officials are expected to vote within the next 30 days about hiring the firm.