From Daily Republic // Dec. 9, 2005
By Nathan Halverson
SUISUN CITY - A proposed Wal-Mart is a contentious issue in Suisun City - meaning its possible development is taking some time.
But city officials aren't waiting idly for Wal-Mart's approval and the huge tax revenue it will generate.
In recent months, City Manager Suzanne Bragdon and Project Manager Jason Garben attended a Deal Making conference hosted by the International Center for Shopping Centers in Palm Springs.
"The purpose of the trip was to promote the remaining sites in Suisun for development," Garben said.
While Garben said no sites exist in Suisun City to build a traditional mall, plenty of spots could be developed for commercial retail.
Ideally, the city would land a "big box" retailer like Home Depot or Kohl's department store, Bragdon said.
"We don't have the commercial retail for our residents to shop locally," she said.
The city rented a booth at the event to promote itself to developers looking for commercial sites. Garben and Bragdon provided information on vacant land, its ownership, and city economic and demographic numbers.
"Since Suzanne has come on board, her big push is to try and generate new commercial development," Garben said.
The city, which is running a budget deficit, is searching for ways to generate revenue. Increasing retail space will lead to greater sales tax revenue.
Currently, Suisun City loses 73 percent of its residents' taxable spending to other cities.
The city only receives 7 percent of its sales tax revenue from consumer goods. Garben would like to increase that figure, and bringing in a large retail development would help boost that category.
Fairfield receives 20 percent of its sales tax revenues from the Westfield Solano mall and Gateway Plaza area alone - but this geographical area also includes restaurants.
Garben said the Palm Springs trip was productive, with many prospective businesses and developers showing interest. Attending the event has generated 40 to 50 prospects, said Garben.
"At the very least Suisun was presented as an option to developers who never would have considered us before," he said.
An expert on how cities raise revenues said attending the mall event was a good step.
"That's one of the things that they should do," said Denise Ovrom, an associate with Diamond Bar-based The HdL Companies. "You might not get a quantifiable outcome from going to that, but the info you gain and the contacts you make are worth it."
Suisun City should focus on selling what makes it unique, Ovrom added.
"They have a growing population there, which is very helpful," she said. "And they have the waterfront. They need to leverage that."
Bragdon said the city is conducting a study to determine what kind of retail it can support. If all else fails, the vacant sites can be turned into residential sites, she said.
"The pressure to build residential is tremendous," Bragdon said. "But the taxes from that won't even pay for the cost of providing the needed housing services."
Reach Nathan Halverson at 425-4646 ext. 267 or firstname.lastname@example.org.