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Survey says: Let's do business

S'side area retail potential tops half a billion dollars

Could Baskin-Robbins ice cream be in Sunnyside's future? How about Fred Meyer, Cracker Barrel or Sizzler?

They potentially could be, according to survey results the Sunnyside City Council evaluated Monday night.

City Manager Bob Stockwell cautioned the survey's retail match list is speculative, noting that none of the businesses have been contacted.

In partnership with the Sunnyside Economic Development Association (SEDA), the city contracted late last year with the Texas-based Buxton Company to conduct the research. Sunnyside paid $38,000 of the study's $63,000 price tag, with SEDA picking up the remaining $25,000.

Buxton, which states that it serves 1,100 retail clients and 160 cities in 30 states, gathered the survey information from consumer spending habits within Sunnyside and outlying areas within 15-minute and 20-minute drives.

Buxton used records of credit card item purchases as well as information from the city in conducting its research. Sunnyside provided Buxton with information on housing, housing starts, new subdivisions, comprehensive plan maps, zoning maps, current retailers and those who have left.

During a presentation of the survey results to council last night, Amy Wetzel, a Buxton vice president, said her company looked at three intersections in Sunnyside: I-82 and Midvale Road, Yakima Valley Highway and Edison Avenue, and Yakima Valley Highway and Lester Road.

Wetzel said Buxton focused on 15 and 20-minute drive times from I-82 and Midvale Road.

Noting that Sunnyside has a "power house of a trade area," Wetzel said there is a $482,973,840 retail trade potential within a 15-minute drive of Sunnyside. There is a retail trade potential of $691,102,910 within a 20-minute drive of the city. Zillah and Toppenish were among the areas captured in the 20-minute drive time research.

There are an estimated 12,673 households within the 15-minute drive area, and 18,176 households within a 20-minute drive time.

Those are numbers Sunnyside can put to use when recruiting a business to the area, Wetzel added.

The Buxton presentation provided an overlay, showing how the Sunnyside retail area fit with successful trends for the 40 businesses identified in the survey.

City Manager Bob Stockwell said he would be meeting with SEDA officials in the next two weeks to narrow the list to 20 businesses. Buxton, in turn, can provide Sunnyside with folders custom-made for each of the 20 retailers to show how this area's spending habits are a good fit for their business.

Stockwell later said of the retailer list, "This is something we won't put on a bookshelf and forget about, otherwise we've wasted our time."

He told council that one year's sales tax revenue from just one of the businesses on the list could pay the cost of the study.

Stockwell said the list helps Sunnyside be a cheerleader for encouraging retail businesses to locate here. The land and building deals needed to make that a reality, he added, will require private negotiations between developers and businesses.

Wetzel advised the city to focus on one retailer at a time, and be flexible. Noting that not all of the businesses will re-locate here, she encouraged Sunnyside to recruit a variety of businesses beyond "big box" stores.

Wetzel suggested the survey information be available on the city's website for prospective retailers.

Most of all, she encouraged Sunnyside to act on the survey results.

"This is fine-tuned information, don't let it go," Wetzel said. "Now is the linchpin of success."

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