At Monday night’s City Council meeting, the council approved the use of $140,000 for a report from Buxton Company and the implementation of the report.
Buxton, a consulting company that has commissioned reports for other municipalities similar to Newton, conducts customer analysis that is used to draw in and retain retailers.
A key area that Buxton addresses in all their reports is on retail leakage, which is the amount of local retail sales that go to surrounding communities and escape the community. The report on Newton will offer existing businesses information on how to retain those retail dollars and what retailers developers could attract to prevent more leakage.
Jeff King, a Newton resident and owner of Keystone Labs, addressed the council with his concerns about Buxton. After the passage of purchase, King said he was disappointed the council didn’t look at all the available information on Buxton.
King read an online review of Buxton from an employee who identified himself only as the current Director of Sales.
“If it weren’t for marketing dollars being so loose at many large companies, Buxton would be out of business,” the review stated. “The work that is produced from their research is mostly smoke and mirrors.”
“I’ve seen this my whole career,” King said. “Consulting firms, their first rule of business is to convince you that you can’t do anything yourself. That’s why you need a consultant.”
King questioned the data on the retail leakage reported in Manmouth, Ill., which was reported to have $192 million in leakage. King pointed out that Manmouth only has 3,522 households which means the amount of leakage per household was $54,514. The median income per household in Manmouth is $33,275.
“I just really question whether these studies are worth anything,” King said.
Council member Dennis Julius, the only council member to vote down the resolution, applauded Newton’s current assets in the business community such as the Greater Newton Area Chamber of Commerce and the Newton Development Corporation. He said in the last two weeks, since the council had tabled the decision to purchase the report and implement it, he had read over Buxton’s information thoroughly.
“I wish I could share all the enthusiasm that’s in all this information,” Julius said.
Julius admitted that he didn’t have an alternative to the Buxton report to potentially stimulate growth in Newton’s business community, but he warned that this report was not a promise of growth.
“I still don’t think this is a wise use of TIF and general use tax dollars,” Julius said. “There are no guarantees with Buxton.”
Council member Noreen Otto said the need for growth and sustainability in Newton’s business community is urgent and a valuable part of the report would be its use by current Newton businesses.
“If we don’t have the right tools to reach out to new businesses then we’re sitting here with an empty toolbox,” Otto said.
After hearing the concerns of council members, City Administrator Bob Knabel said if Buxton Company was retained, their services would take time to see results.
“This isn’t done overnight,” Knabel said. “They said you can expect 12-18 months for these businesses to make those decisions and choices to come here.”
After the resolution passed, Julius said he hoped the information was well used and would shine light on an issue that he has seen in the community since he moved to Newton.
“I certainly don’t want people to think I’m down on the community,” Julius said. “I want to see Newton move forward and grow.”
Staff writer Dave Hon may be contacted at (641) 792-3121, ext. 425, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.