City discusses business development news, objectives

By: Eric Czarnik | Sterling Heights Sentry | Published May 3, 2016

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STERLING HEIGHTS — Sterling Heights city officials recently touted strides and successes in economic development, but some are asking the city to pursue more data so the city can market itself as an attractive spot to the business community.

At an April 19 City Council meeting, City Development Director Denice Gerstenberg revealed some of the new businesses that are making Sterling Heights their home.

A few of them are pizzerias — including NKD Pizza, Pie Five Pizza Co. and 1000 Degrees Neapolitan Pizza. A Holiday Inn hotel is also planned for 15 Mile Road and Van Dyke Avenue, she said.

Gerstenberg revealed the locations of new or changing retail developments, such as ones on Van Dyke, south of 16 Mile Road; at 16 Mile and Dequindre roads; and on Hall Road, west of Hayes.

Luke Bonner, senior economic development adviser, called the economic development “a ton of activity” and attributed it to “a scorching hot economy right now.”

“Retail is a real, true byproduct of good employment rates, good construction happening, a lot of jobs being created in the community,” Bonner said.

Bonner said retailers largely rely on community data to make business location decisions. He said the city should strive to access more data so it can make its case to businesses that Sterling Heights is a great locale.

“And our strategy going forward is sort of looking at that data but also looking at other possibilities and other examples of data, that kind of help more or less strengthen our position of what the community can truly support,” he said. “And having and being armed with that information will allow us to go to those retailers that make a whole lot of sense for the community.”

For instance, Bonner said, many cities across the country strive to become “Whole Foods communities,” or the types of places that entice the Whole Foods Market chain to add a location. During the presentation, he looked at data for Troy, which has a Whole Foods Market near West Maple Road and Coolidge Highway, as a comparable example of a city that is a Whole Foods community.

Bonner mentioned that many businesses not only look at demographic data, but also examine psychographic data in making decisions on where to open shop. While demographic data includes factors such as age, ethnicity and gender, psychographic data deals with traits like interests, values, personalities and lifestyles, he explained.

Bonner said analytics firms such as Buxton aggregate psychographic data and make it accessible for clients. He said Buxton, which is based in Texas, can help match a city’s data profile to a profile of what retailers are looking for.

“So when we’re moving forward with our retail strategy, we think it’s very important to understand really what we are, based on what retailers are looking at, versus what’s kind of publicly available,” Bonner said. “I think that will help us pinpoint who we should be targeting that would be the best fit.”

Sterling Heights City Manager Mark Vanderpool said he looks forward to hearing the council’s feedback about the data.

“While this sounds a bit complicated, it is a new modeling that we really should think very seriously about obtaining,” he said. “And as we proceed through the (2016-17) budget process, there may be an opportunity to discuss this further. But getting this sort of proprietary information would be close to impossible but … through the services of Buxton.”

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