New day dawning for developers and local government officials?

BY Al Urbanski

Some three years ago, Phillips Edison & Company, the largest owner of necessity-based centers in the United States, created a community engagement program. As head, the company named former coffee shop owner and current VP of economic development Scott Adair.

As Adair traveled PECO’s vast property map, ranging from California to Texas to Massachusetts, and spent time with mayors, urban planners, and development directors, he quickly realized two things: One, they all spoke a common language that was foreign to him and, two, he had to learn it to succeed in his mission.

Scott Adair

This month, Adair can confidently talk the talk, having completed a 117-hour certificate program given by the University of Oklahoma and accredited by the International Economic Development Council. Adair feels strongly that more developers could benefit themselves and the communities they serve by taking the course.

“At one of the course’s institutes held in Fort Worth, there were 300 participants and I was the only developer,” Adair recalled. “Here were all these cities and counties and states and I was there wondering why there weren’t more developers in attendance because all of these officials were tripping over each other looking for opportunities.”

The really good news for developers who mix with economic development professionals, Adair said, is that all are very aware that most local economic growth comes from the retention and expansion of businesses already operating in their communities.

“Everyone wants Amazon Headquarters Two, but those opportunities are few and far between. The actual results are greater if you focus on the existing businesses,” he says.

PECO has already realized tangible benefits from its newfound insights into working with municipal officials. When Dominick’s left as anchor tenant of the Baker Hill shopping center in Glen Ellyn, Ill., five years ago, the town let PECO recoup some $1.25 million in sales taxes to keep the center running up to speed. A Pete’s Fresh Market has since taken Dominick’s place.

“I think that this old conception of the big, bad developer that comes into town and ruins everything is going away,” Adair said.

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