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Business Club discusses downtown development
October 25, 2012 Jerry Purvis   

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What do you want to be? That’s the question Rick Willis of Twin Cities Development asked members of the Gering Business Club last week.

Willis, TCD marketing and research manager, talked about coming up with vision for the future of what Gering could be and what downtown development could be done.

He said one disturbing trend is what he called Gering’s “pull factor.” That’s the amount spent in the community for every dollar earned. In 1990, the city’s pull factor was $1.47. In 2011, that factor had dropped to 66 cents.

“That means that 34 cents of every dollar that’s earned here in Gering is being spent somewhere else,” Willis said.

He added that Gering has many destination stops, where people come to conduct business, such as the county courthouse. But few shoppers are looking for destination stops. Currently, Gering has only 11 retail stores.

“Local residents want the opportunity to spend money here, but they want what they want,” Willis said. “People have told me they’re tired of having to go to Denver or Cheyenne when they want to shop here. While Gering has some retail, more is needed to keep people coming back.”

A recent survey of Gering merchants said they want to see updated building facades, recruitment of retail outlets and recruitment of restaurants other than fast food types.

“It was also amazing how many people responded with making downtown pedestrian friendly,” he said.

Gering has applied for a $30,000 Community Development Block Grant to help with the research needed to develop a plan for the town’s future.

“You can’t ask for better foot traffic than what Gering has,” Willis said. The monument, the civic center and the future Legacy of the Plains museum bring in thousands of people from across the county. The challenge is coming up with a way of keeping them here longer.”
He said part of the planning process is bringing in a professional from outside the area who can see the local area with objective eyes and recommend what can be done to build more development and bring in more travelers.

“You need to capitalize on what Gering has, develop public/private partnerships and tie in with local events,” Willis said.
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