Explosion of strip malls keep shoppers in parish

Heather R. Breaux
June 22, 2009 at 9:11 am  | Mobile Reader | Pring this storyPrint 

Destrehan resident Amanda Alley buys some gifts for Father’s Day from Tiger Town Gifts’ employee Alyssa Dowouis. Tiger Town is one of several businesses in the parish that have taken advantage of the new strip malls that have popped up across the area.
Heather Breaux
Destrehan resident Amanda Alley buys some gifts for Father’s Day from Tiger Town Gifts’ employee Alyssa Dowouis. Tiger Town is one of several businesses in the parish that have taken advantage of the new strip malls that have popped up across the area.
If the number of strip malls being constructed around St. Charles Parish is any indication of good commerce, then it would be safe to say business is booming in the “Parish of Plenty.”

But the question is, does the local community really benefit from these retail giants?

On the West Bank alone, three newly-built shopping centers - two in Luling and one in Boutte - have suites for lease that tend to attract more businesses.

“The majority of retailers that I’ve talked to prefer existing spaces versus building new facilities,” said Corey Faucheux, the parish’s economic development director. “It shrinks their start-up time and leasing is favored over owning within their business plans.”

However, Faucheux points out that there are some retailers  - like restaurants and drugstores - that prefer to construct stand-alone buildings in addition to other business sectors such as heavy-commercial and light-industrial corporations.

“In today’s economic climate, it is easier to market an existing space instead of persuading a company to approve a new construction,” added Faucheux. “Usually, companies first seek existing space before pursuing a construction alternative.”

Big-name chain stores like the Shoe Dept. and Rue 21 have set up shop on Highway 90 in Luling near the Coronado subdivision, providing residents additional shopping options.

“It is a positive impact in the sense that these outlets may provide local shoppers a reason not to travel outside of St. Charles to spend their money, resulting in more dollars recirculating through the local economy,” Faucheux said.

Other businesses, like locally-owned Pocomo’s Pizzeria and Tiger Town Gifts, are also an indication of the parish’s growth.

“The benefits  of a locally-owned store usually revolve around the fact that most of a dollar spent at a local business  stays within the local economy,” said Faucheux. “These businesses usually purchase from other businesses, live and pay taxes in the community.”

Which is the difference between those businesses and national chains.

Some controversial studies show that as much as 80 percent of $1 spent at a national outlet immediately leaves the community. However, national chain retailers do benefit communities by preventing more “outshopping” or “spending leakage” to neighboring parishes.

“The most obvious example is Wal-Mart,” Faucheux said. “Whether you are pro- or anti-Wal-Mart, the fact of the matter is that people will shop in their stores.”

Other national retail studies  indicate, from a fiscal standpoint, that a community without a Wal-Mart is negatively impacted if neighboring communities have  a Wal-Mart.

“In my opinion, there is a difference between retail development and economic development,” Faucheux said. “Retail development should only be viewed as true economic development when it prevents outshopping, and when it results in a net gain in employment - or when it results in a more money staying in our parish.”

Tax incentives that provide manufactures with property tax exemptions, and retailers with employment tax credits, are available to potential entrepreneurs.

The Industrial Tax Exemption provides manufacturers with a property tax exemption for a five-year period. Exemptible property includes buildings, machinery, equipment, furniture and fixtures for a new expanded or renovated facility.

The Enterprise Zone incentive provides a one-time $2,500 tax credit for each new permanent job created in the parish.

“We encourage every existing business and prospective business to take full advantage of the incentive offered by the Louisiana Economic Development,” Faucheux said. “In addition to state incentives, we have the ability to offer a  customized package of local incentives based on the economic health of the business and the business’ fiscal impact on our community.”

To date, Faucheux says that the parish has yet to approve a local incentive package to the traditional, national retailers, but has helped several “mom and pop” retailers get started or expand their business.

View other articles written Heather R. Breaux

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