Why is Retail Important to Economic Growth?

Tioga Town Center

Tioga Town Center

By Nick Banks for Business in the Heart of Florida Magazine 

Living in Gainesville is great! We enjoy all the benefits of living in a small city, but we have access to cultural events, world-class sports, a thriving arts community and a music scene typically only available in much larger cities. Gainesville has consistently ranked among the best places to live and best places to start and grow a company.

The last two years have been very exciting in Gainesville. We have companies like MindTree, Mobiquity, and SumTotal choosing to locate here. We have tremendous energy surrounding the Florida Innovation Hub at UF and Innovation Square. The biomedical presence at Progress Corporate Park continues to thrive with new acquisitions and expansions of companies such as RTI and Nanotherapeutics. Our community is doing a great job of growing, retaining and recruiting companies and creating jobs.

Competition, however, is fierce. Many cities in Florida and throughout the Southeast are trying to lure our companies away and to recruit the same ones we want to relocate here.

Those of us who live in Gainesville know we have an unmatched quality of life, but that quality of life may not be immediately evident to those visiting for the first time. When people and companies from outside Gainesville consider this area, they often are comparing us to much larger areas, often with superior shopping and dining choices.

There are a multitude of considerations in any corporate relocation, however, shopping and restaurants do factor more heavily into the decision than many realize. These factors are not only a recruiting tool for retention and attraction of companies, they are tools for retaining and attracting the top talent these companies need to grow and thrive here.

Thankfully, there are new restaurant concepts and high-end retailers seeking locations in Gainesville like never before. In recent months we have seen several national or regional concepts come to Gainesville. World of Beer recently opened in Tioga Town Center to record sales numbers. Trader Joe’s chose Gainesville as its second location in the entire state. KC Crave, from Jacksonville, is a tapas-style restaurant that recently opened in Gainesville and has received rave reviews. Orlando-based 4 Rivers Smokehouse is under construction and opening in August with fans waiting anxiously. We’ve got Wharf Express from Tallahassee under construction; and a Massage Envy recently opened.  Recently, Hobby Lobby announced a new location near Oaks Mall, and several retailers such as Dick’s Sporting Goods, Academy Sports, and Marshalls all are seeking sites.

By continuing to attract these businesses, we can continue to enhance the wonderful quality of life Gainesville has to offer and continue to grow our economy and employment base. Butler Plaza recently was approved for a major expansion, and PREIT is making plans to begin its Springhills mixed-use project at the intersection of NW 39th Avenue and I-75. These projects and others will allow us to compete with larger cities in Florida by offering a well-rounded array of shopping and dining choices, allowing Gainesville to retain its ranking as one of the best cities to live, work and play.

Nick Banks is the managing director of Front Street Commercial Real Estate Group, a full-service firm located in Gainesville offering brokerage, management and mortgage banking services for commercial real estate clients. Nick is a 17-year vetaran of commercial real estate and a graduate of the University of Florida. www.frontstreet.net

Nick Banks

Nick created Front Street Commercial Real Estate Group in 2002 and spent the first eight years developing and acquiring office and retail projects in South Florida as well as North Central Florida. In 2010 the focus of the firm was shifted to primarily serve third party clients and perform brokerage, property management and mortgage banking functions. Nick has personally developed and acquired nearly 200,000 square feet of office and retail properties in markets throughout Florida. Prior to founding Front Street, Nick was the Director of Finance and Dispositions for Stiles Corporation in Fort Lauderdale where he financed and sold over $500 million in commercial real estate. Before joining Stiles, Nick was an Associate Director at GE Capital Real Estate where he sourced over $200 million in financing throughout Florida. Nick is a graduate of the University of Florida with a degree in Finance and a concentration in Real Estate. He serves as a board member and current vice-chair for the United Way of North Central Florida where he also chairs the Development Committee. Nick is actively involved with the Gainesville Area Chamber of Commerce where he serves as a board member and committee member for the Council for Economic Outreach. He is also a recent graduate of Leadership Gainesville which is a year long leadership program hosted by the Chamber. He is a member of Grace United Methodist Church where he has served as finance chair and as a member of the leadership council. Nick serves as an advisory board member of the University of Florida Bergstrom Center for Real Estate Studies. Nick was recently named chair of the Gainesville committee for the North Florida chapter of Urban Land Institute (ULI). He is a licensed real estate broker in the State of Florida and is a long time member of the International Council of Shopping Centers.

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