ICSC is the International Council of Shopping Centers and RECon is the “global retail real estate convention”. Forney's attendees included Mayor Darren Rozell, City Manager Brian Brooks, EDC Director Kim Buttram, Assistant City Manager Gina Nash, EDC Executive Assistant Kayla Bryson, and EDC board members Jennifer Helms and David Connor. The City of Forney has been represented at this event since 2007 and started exhibiting at the convention in 2008. This years RECon had over 30,000 attendees. Though Forney attends the North Texas Association of Realtors Convention in September, RECon is the biggest event at which the city is represented.
EDC Director Kim Buttram said that the purpose of Forney representatives attending this conference is “to put Forney in the forefront and let businesses know that we are the 15th fastest growing community in the 120 plus towns and cities in the DFW area.” Buttram continued, “We can talk to hundreds of people in one place at one time...we can see them in person and let them know that Forney is not just a rural place, we are an energetic, young, suburban area.”
Mayor Rozell knows well the benefits of attending RECon, “This was my third year to attend. In that short time I've experienced the benefits of networking and making sure retailers, restauranteurs, and developers know who we are. Forney benefits as well. If a certain store or restaurant is considering one of several markets, there is a better chance they're going to first go with the city where they know the officials, and can get moving quickly. It also gives us a chance to "go after" those merchants that our citizens are constantly asking us to try to bring to Forney.”
Sweet Frog Frozen Yogurt coming to Forney
The Forney reps are able to plant seeds in the minds of businesses, particularly franchises. Since Forney started attending this event in 2007, they spoke with and eventually brought to town Starbucks, Whataburger, CVS, Walgreens, Panda Express, Best Western, Taco Bell, Pizza Hut, Little Caesars, Jiffy Lube, O'Reilly's, NTB, and Game Stop. Having the Gateway Bridge already under construction only enhanced Forney's reputation at this years RECon. City Manager Brian Brooks told inForney.com, “The 2012 RECon was particularly important due to the timing of the Gateway Project and Forney Marketplace. These two sites are drawing incredible interest and will fuel several years of development in Forney.” Brooks said that their job at RECon use to be to introduce Forney to the retail community, but now, “Our time at ICSC is spent discussing specific sites, development criteria, availability of services, and scheduling construction.”
On average, each fast food restaurant in Forney generates approximately $35,000 in local sales tax revenue every year. For Forney, the importance of being at these types of conventions cannot be overstated. Other local towns are at RECon each year as well. Terrell, Dallas, Little Elm, Fort Worth, Athens, Greenville, Grandbury, and others compete to get the attention of retailers at the convention. Buttram said, “When you're in a show like that, you're sending a message that retail is important to your city.” Forney spent $17,000 in 2008, $30,000 in 2009, $19,000 in 2012, and $33,000 in 2011 to cover the cost of travel to the show, as well as the booth and giveaways. It seems to be money invested wisely in the future of the town.
So who wanted to talk to Forney at RECon this year? Turns out the Forney booth was a popular place with business representatives. Though no deals were signed at the convention, Forney reps spoke with many interested retailers, including Denny's, Texas Road House, Target, Hobby Lobby, Michael's, Justice, Cato, and the highly sought after In-N-Out Burger. Retailers were excited about how much growth Forney has shown and all that the future holds for the town. They applauded the fact that Kroger’s is developing a 120,000 square foot store as well as a fuel station near Highway 80 and FM 548. That project should be completed and open for business in 2013. When a major store like Kroger’s sees the value in investing in Forney, other major retailers are sure to follow suit.