New businesses may be on the way to Milton

Ramon Rios

MILTON — Economic development dominated the Jan. 22 Milton City Council meeting.

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The discussions about achieving economic growth ranged from attracting national retail companies to the city, to streamlining its application processes for future events.

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“We have met with 12 to 14 net-lease developers, single tenant restaurant developers and small tenant strip development companies that expressed interest in Milton,” said Chuck Branch, CEO of NextSite.

NextSite is a consultant for the city. Their job is to find and recruit retail resources for Milton.

Branch attended the recent meeting to report his 2019 findings to Randy Jorgenson, city manager, and the city’s new economic development staff, Ed Spears, director, and Stephen Prestesater, assistant director.

Branch did not disclose names of the companies, a common practice during recruitment. What he did say was a New Jersey director of leasing is interested in both Parkmore Plaza, 4646 Parkmore Plaza Drive, and Kmart Plaza, 6050 U.S. Highway 90.

The New Jersey firm likes the space at the old Bealls store for retail concepts that would fit the market. The key attractions at both sites are the large parking lots. The space could easily fit two or three restaurant concepts.

U-Haul occupies the former Kmart location and uses the parking lot for parking and storage of trucks and equipment. Although not interested in changing anything now, U-Haul representatives asked Branch to “keep in touch.”

Branch is also marketing national hospitality companies. Those efforts produced contact from a large housing developer interested in the market created by the constant flow of student pilots in Milton.

Branch said Spears made Milton’s downtown a target zone, concentrating on bringing businesses there. Spears tasked NextSite to complete a market research analysis on the downtown area.

Spears wants to know where downtown visitors come from, what they visit, where they eat and drink, where they stay and where they go after they visit downtown.

“Many of the visitors to downtown Milton are there for events,” Prestesater said.

Prestesater announced Bands on the Blackwater, the free concert series held on the edge of the river in downtown Milton, will start on March 27 and continue through June 5. The fall session runs from Sept. 4 through Oct. 30.

“There will be more national touring acts this year than we’ve ever had,” Prestesater said.

Details on the concert series will come out in late February.

Some events organizers have agreed to merge into one event. Prestesater said combining events can save the city money and increase attendance at events with small audiences.

This year, the annual Milton High School Band Parent Association’s Beats and Eats event will combine with Leadership Santa Rosa Alumni’s Blackwater Glow Run.

Attendance at the band event, normally held at the school, has decreased and they need $80,000 for new band uniforms this year. The combined event will take place downtown and will attract attendees that normally would not go each event separately.