Walker County is currently in the business of building business. From restaurants to retail, from shoe shopping to book browsing, Walker County locals have never had so many shopping and entertainment options. Jasper and Walker County leaders are spending time and dollars to introduce some big-city retail to the county with one of Alabama’s best small-town vibes, and they’re seeing success. But it hasn’t been simple.
While the county’s proximity to Birmingham is key to the area’s ability to attract residents, it also makes it easy for those residents to take their important shopping dollars outside county lines.
“Jasper is dependent on retail sales tax dollars for city operations, but they’re losing significant revenue to Birmingham that needs to stay local,” says Robert Jolly, president of Retail Specialists Inc., a group helping Walker County with retail management, research and strategic retail recruitment planning services.
Walker County’s budget relies on keeping tax revenues high, which means continuing the trend of new business establishments building a presence in the county. Community leaders are focused on making Walker County a shopping destination for those living within a 60-mile radius.
A Rising Retail Tide
Jolly says that the synergy between new developments is huge. His current project is a new Walker County retail development, which he says will not just bring new revenue, but will also help attract even more businesses.
“A high tide raises all boats," Jolly says. "This development will bring shoppers from outside the market to Jasper to shop. When they are there, they will eat at local restaurants and fill their cars up at local convenience stores. Additionally, we will be able to leverage the fact that these retailers are locating in the market to attract new retailers that target the same demographics.”
Some of the area’s newest tenants are already finding success attracting local dollars. Restaurants like Jim N’ Nicks (voted the state’s best BBQ restaurant by the Alabama Department of Tourism in 2013) and Ezell’s Fish Camp are filling local bellies, and new gift and clothing shops like Bare Bones Cargo and Lavish Boutique are finding an audience that’s buying what they’re selling. These new developments aren’t just creating a better quality of life for residents directly, they’re also providing tax dollars that are being used to build the area into one of Alabama’s most exciting places to live.
The growth in retail and restaurant revenues isn’t accidental. Jolly says the state has been intentional about developing partnerships between public and private entities.
“This is demonstrated through the adoption of Amendment 772, which allows municipalities to share sales tax revenue with retailers and/or developers to make new developments viable," Jolly says. "Public/private partnerships are the ‘new normal’ in Alabama and in all other states where the municipalities are dependent on retail sales taxes.”
Thanks to statewide initiatives like Amendment 772, Walker County is poised for tremendous growth. And with a government that has eyes on the future, it will continue to boom.
Read more about Jasper's retail development.