Council gives update on Vegas convention trip

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by A.C. Hall

The White Settlement City Council and Economic Development Corporation held a joint meeting on Tuesday to get an update from staff and council members who attended the Recon retail convention in Las Vegas last week.  Mayor Ronald A. White stated he wanted to have this meeting now instead of at the next regular council meeting so the events of the trip were fresh in the minds of those who went.  
White initially asked for each council member who went to give an individual update on what they did at the convention and who they spoke to.  Council member Anderson suggested having Economic Development Director Kyle Reeves speak, as he’d prepared a presentation.
Reeves began by giving an update on the Recon convention itself.  There were 34,000 attendees who went  and the convention was spread across 3.2 million square feet at the Las Vegas Convention Center.  He then gave a list of some of the major retailers and eateries that the White Settlement attendees met with, saying that some were highly interested in coming to the city.  He said going to the convention was a great way to network and meet and recruit companies, but that it’s also about keeping up with surrounding cities.
“We’re in competition with other cities.  Fort Worth’s there trying to get the same businesses we are,” Reeves said.
Reeves showed a list of the attendees that several surrounding cities sent to the convention.
“Us being there is staying in the game.  If we don’t go we’re gonna get behind,” Reeves said.
He also added that the convention was a lot of hard work and nonstop moving for the White Settlement representatives, but that he believes it will pay off.
“I believe that we have a good future ahead of us.  We may not see something tomorrow, you may not see it a month from now, but I do feel that we did gain contacts for six months to a year,” Reeves said.  “I feel comfortable and confident in saying that we’re going to obtain some businesses because of this convention.”
Mayor White asked if any of these contacts would translate into a new business in the close future.  Reeves told him that he believes it will.
Council member Elzie Clements is one of three council members who went to the convention, and he addressed anyone who may be skeptical about the nature of the trip.
“I know some of you might think we went out there for a play day, and I just wish some of you would take step for step the steps we took while we were there and the different people that we met with,” Clements said, listing off a long list of eateries that he spoke with while at the convention.
Clements spoke about the need to plant a seed with these companies, saying that’s what it takes to start the process of some of them coming to White Settlement.
“If we only get one or two, it’s more than what we had,” Clements said.
Council member Danny Anderson spoke with the Grizzly Detail following the meeting, looking to share how much money was spent on the trip.  Anderson stated that the cost for the council members and city staff to travel and stay in Vegas was $4534.  He said the money came out of the city’s hotel/motel tax which can only be used towards economic development purposes.  Anderson also stated that the White Settlement representatives worked tirelessly during the convention, not even stopping to eat lunch while there.
During the meeting, Clements also stated that the city did not pay for the local retail professional who accompanied them on the trip.  Gene Thompson III of Gene Thompson and Associates was the professional in question, and those who went on the trip said his input was invaluable.
Council member Paul Moore addressed the amount of White Settlement representatives that went, saying it was a necessary number.
“If we hadn’t sent as many as we did, if we’d just sent two, they wouldn’t have covered any of it,” Moore said.
Anderson also spoke about his experiences at the convention, saying that companies give specific information there that they don’t give out anywhere else.  This information helps the city know exactly what the company needs in order to come and build here.
Aaron Farmer of the Retail Coach also made a brief presentation about the event.  Farmer’s company works with White Settlement and other cities and helps them bring businesses into the area.  Farmer spoke about the value of networking at the convention and stated that following up with all the contacts made is very important.
City Manager Jim Ryan spoke briefly about the cost of the trip and the cost of marketing the city.
“For the money we spent, if we bring one business in from this trip it’ll pay for itself many many times.  It was a very inexpensive trip for us,” Ryan said.
Thompson III spoke briefly, saying that one thing he’s found beneficial in his time at Gene Thompson and Associates is scouting the competition.  Thompson III told council and staff they should make a point of observing cities that are thriving and taking note of the things they’re doing that are helping them pull in businesses.  He also praised the council members and city staff that went on the trip.
Anderson touched upon the possibility of offering incentives to some companies if that’s what it takes to get them to come to White Settlement.
“We have to look outside the box,” Anderson said.
One such idea was presented by council member Steve Ott at the end of the meeting.
“Veteran’s Park is a prime piece of real estate,” Ott said.
He stated that the existing park would have to be removed, but that there are ways to accomplish that.  Ott said it would take work and citizen involvement to make it happen, however.  Mayor White suggested a joint meeting between the council and the Parks and Recreation board to further discuss this issue.