DOWAGIAC — A new Dowagiac-area retail market study shows opportunities for growth and expansion, city officials say.
The study identifies demand for 56,200 square feet of new retail and restaurant development, which could generate as much as $19.3 million in sales.
The Dowagiac City Council hired Gibbs Planning Group of Birmingham in August to update the city’s market study and received the study results in October. Gibbs also did the last study in 2014.
City Manager Kevin Anderson said the city has the market study every four to five years.
“It’s something we’ve consistently done,” he said. “It lets local merchants know the size of the market ,and it’s also really nice tool to help us fill empty storefronts.”
He said merchants in the past have used the study to validate their claims when they go to banks to get financing for projects.
“The information is valid, and it’s something people have taken to the bank,” he said. “We want to get it into people’s hand. We want to see them flourish. … It’s good data to have, and we want to make sure it gets into merchants’ hands and also use it with the Chamber of Commerce as we actively market the area.”
Besides helping existing businesses, he said it’s helpful as a recruitment tool for new businesses. The study shows needs along with the current mix of businesses and the opportunities for new businesses.
For example, Anderson said that besides giving economic and demographic data, the study showed the market is a little bigger than it was a few years ago and more people are choosing to spend their money locally, results that he described as surprising and confirming.
“That’s a real positive piece,” he said. “The actual number of people is down slightly and flat going forward, but people are actually spending more dollars locally. That’s a good positive trend for local businesses.”
He said city officials already knew business was on the upswing with three to four new businesses downtown and the opening of the Tractor Supply Store on the south side. In addition, a new auto parts store is scheduled to open in coming months.
City Councilman Patrick Bakeman, who owns a downtown business, said he’s pleased with the study results and glad the city had it done.
“I am happy to see the city of Dowagiac using its resources on something for both existing and inquiring businesses,” he said.
“The two biggest surprises to me is the daytime population of 22,000 people,” he said. “The city’s population is around 5,600 residents. For a community to grow four times during the day was impressive to see. The second surprise is that the report states that home values look to rise in the next five years.”
He said he believes Dowagiac is on the rise and pointed to big projects like $35 million worth of improvements in the schools and the $9 million Southwestern Michigan College nursing building expansion and the fact there are few vacancies downtown.
Bakeman said he and other city officials aren’t afraid to explore new opportunities. He said the city, the Chamber and the Economic Development and Opportunity Board are all looking for ways to get the report out to businesses, which may be interested in locating in Dowagiac.
People can visit the city website to see all the market study results, including the tables of how much square footage of different types of businesses the area will support.