2 Minute Tuesday – John Duncan, Collierville Director of Economic Development

Welcome back to another 2-Minute Tuesday from Tour Collierville, where today Keith sits down with John Duncan, Director of Economic Development to talk about Collierville, TN’s town development.

Watch the video here, or read the transcript below!

John Duncan Interview Transcript

Keith: Hey guys, this is Keith with Tour Collierville, and today for our Two-Minute Tuesday, we’re sitting with John Duncan.  John, thanks for coming.

John: Good to be here, as always.

K: Maybe the first thing we do is tell people who you are and what you do for the city, right?

J: I work for the Town of Collierville.  I’m the Director of Economic Development, so it’s my job to recruit businesses to the community.  It’s a business development job focused on office, industrial, and commercial recruitment—and retention as well.

K: Yeah.  I got you.  So basically, you entertain a lot of people?  You spend a lot of time entertaining core people?

J: “Entertaining” in the sense of promoting and talking about and trying to get them interested in this market.  Developers and real estate brokers and site selectors and the businesses themselves—we deal with them.  So, there’s a lot of moving parts.  It’s very complicated, long sales cycle.  So there’s a lot of steps in the process.  But it’s a lot of fun, for sure.

K: Gotcha.  So you’re looking to bring more business and the right kind of business into Collierville economy.

J: No doubt about it.  At the end of the day, it’s about jobs and tax revenue and infrastructure development.  We focus on office: headquarters, regional office, and  district office.  We focus on industrial: light manufacturing and logistics and businesses like that.  And on the commercial side: restaurant and retail.  And those are our three primary focuses.  And all of this ultimately feeds and fuels our economy, which helps us continue to fund our activity centers and our services, so it all sort of works together.

K: So, is it—bringing more business into it—is it… Collierville is a small place; we have some charm.  Does that not wreck our charm?  What does that do to us?

J: It helps us to sustain what we’ve got.  I’ve been here since 1994, and in many ways, Collierville is the same place today as it was 20+ years ago.  You know everybody.  Anywhere you go, it’s familiar.  And that has continued.  The Town has done a great job of planning ahead and having a vision for what they want this town to be and what they want it to continue to be.  So growth is good.  Strategic growth is really good.  We’ve got a lot of developable land and infrastructure to support it.  We’ve got great schools, neighborhoods, low crime… We can check a lot of boxes, and we are going to continue to be a place where business will want to come.

K: And we’ve heard that.  We’ve seen stuff that you put out saying that we’re kind of a hot spot and that this is the place where businesses want to come.  I get it with us being here.  But is there a type of businesses that we’re suited for best to bring in?

J: Well, I think that’s a great question.  I think the answer is threefold.  Number one, is office.  Thank you, by the way, Stakt, for making our Office Brochure, which is a great piece that we use in our recruitment.  But really, this is great, accessible community.  It’s a great community for businesses to recruit people to.  And once they’re here, it’s a great place to retain from, because it’s accessible, there’s amenities, there’s shopping, there’s restaurants, there’s great schools, neighborhoods, it’s safe… So all that together allows a business to come here, recruit, and then grow from here.  So we want headquarters, regional offices, district offices… We are the right type of community that fits that.  That’s probably priority number one.

J: Priority number two would be logistics and manufacturing, because of our location.  We sit right at the 385/US-72/I-269 crossroads, close to the inter modal in Mississippi, close to the airport, 45 minutes from the river… So that location helps us recruit.

K: So where would those types of businesses come if they were logistical?  What part of town would be best suited for them?  I mean, I think everybody might be worried about 18 wheelers up and down Poplar all the time.  What’s a good place for them?

J: Well, you’ve got US-72 from Poplar down to 385 is a five-lane divided highway.  Then, 385 is a highway.  I-269 is a federal highway.

K: Tell me a little about I-269.

J: I-269 is part of the I-69 highway system from Port Huron, Michigan all the way to Brownsville, Texas, and it runs right through the center of the United States.  And the midpoint of this highway system—this federal highway system—is Collierville, Tennessee.  And I-269 is getting cut through town and is being built all the way over to I-55.  It’ll be finished at the end of the year, and that’s going to be able to create industrial opportunities on our Southeast side of town.

K: Gotcha.  So Southeast side of town coming back around the loop.  Do we know?  They’ve been saying that thing is going to I-55 since like 1914.  Is it really going to happen by the end of the year?

J: It’s almost there.  It’s almost finished.  It’ll be finished by the end of the year, and when that happens, I think you’re going to see not only a lot of development of services on the Southeast side of town—hotel, restaurant—plus for us, distribution, warehouse, manufacturing.  Because people need that strategic location to do business from, and we’ve got 300+ acres of land down there that fists that opportunity, for sure.

K: Switch gears on you a little bit. There’s a topic that people talk about a lot and on the square.  What does tourism look like in Collierville right now?  Does tourism help economic growth?  What’s your viewpoint on that?

J: It’s critically important.  I think we’ve got sort of two strategies on tourism.  Creating opportunities and events for the citizens, kind of internal tourism, where our citizens have great parks and recreation and trails, concerts, the square, shopping, other opportunities around town… So we do a real good job in creating opportunities for our citizens.  And then, by doing that, it creates products and services and experiences for folks outside of our community to come here and enjoy.

J: Another thing that’s interesting is at FedEx’s World Tech Center—there on Bailey’s Station, that’s the IT component of FedEx—they receive over 10,000 non-badge visitors a year.  We call them business tourists.  So do the math on that: 10,000 people are coming to Collierville a year to go to FedEx.  That benefits the restaurants and the retailers and the gas stations and the hoteliers, etc. So we’ve got multi-faceted tourism components where our community is.  It’s very, very healthy.  And the fact that we were the Parade Magazine “Best Main Street in America” in 2014—people are still coming here because of that.

K: Yeah, that’s awesome.  So is that some of the basis for the new hotel I’ve seen over by Carriage Crossing? Is it that we just need more?  More accommodations?

J: We sure do.   When we do the analysis and analytics, we don’t have enough hotels.  The Fairfield is going there in front of Carriage Crossing, and I’m having conversations with other hoteliers as we speak.  So there’s more hotel product coming as we bring more corporate folks to town.  I-269 has cut through, and we are a regional hub as well.  People come to Collierville for a variety of reasons, and they’re going to need a place to stay.

K: That’s great.  Yeah, I’ve seen it coming up, and it’s a good basis.

K: I think one of the things that people want to know from someone in your position a lot is: Tell us some secrets, man.  What is going on? We see a lot of building.  What’s happening?  We won’t tell anybody.  We won’t tell anybody.

J: The inside scoop!  Well, there’s a lot of great things going on, and a lot of these developments don’t have signs out front, so people don’t know exactly what it is.  But Poplar, west of Byhalia, across the street from Chick-Fil-A, is a Wichita, Kansas based company called Freddy’s Steakburgers and Custard.  And their hamburgers are these great—what I would call Steak-and-Shake-like—burgers, and their hook is “Great frozen custard delights.”  So they’re opening October 16, and that will be really exciting.  We’ll go there for lunch one day.

J: Then off the square back behind us off of Washington, you’ve got Lost Pizza Company, out of Mississippi.  They’re voted year in and year out the number one pizza in Mississippi, and they’re coming over here.  And next door to them, the Bar-B-Q Shop, which has a restaurant down on Madison downtown is opening up their second restaurant in Memphis off the square.

K: So that’s it’s name, “The Bar-B-Q Shop?”

J: That’s what it is.  So that will be a whole other little restaurant zone back there off the square, so that’s really exciting.  And then, next door to the current Chick-Fil-A, where the old Sunrise dealership used to be—LA Fitness is going in there.  And the front third of that property ultimately will be about 15,000 sq. ft. of retail on Poplar. So there’s all sorts of things going around town.

K: And the Commissary, too, right?

J: The Collierville Commissary down there on Houston Levee and Poplar.  I went by there this morning.  The patio is taking shape.  It’s going to be  175 seats.  Live music, patio, they’re going to have live music and they’re catering kitchen there.  They’re going to have their devilled eggs and banana pudding, so it’s good.

K: That’s not necessarily good for me, but I like the taste of it!  More cardio is what that means.

J: Which is good for the Y, the other LA Fitness and Lifetime or what have you.  Business expansion for sure.

K: That’s right.  That’s awesome.  So is all that going to come together pretty quickly? Could we be looking at all those things next year?

J: Oh, no doubt as far as LA Fitness is concerned.  Freddy’s opens up in a few weeks.  These restaurants off the square?  They’re weeks away.  So there’s more coming.  And like we talked about before, Keith, the phone is ringing, and people are responding, and I think you’re going to this community grow in residential, commercial, office, and industrial.  There’s no doubt about it.  Because we’ve got the land, we’ve got the infrastructure, we’ve got the product that people are interested in… It’s going to continue for sure.

K: That’s great.  We’re certainly in support of that at the magazine.  We love the opportunity to chronicle it, and we are in support of everything you’re doing—you know that.

J: You guys are great, and we really appreciate you being here.

K: Thank you.  Is there anything that you want to say? The floor is yours.  Is there anything you want to bring up? Or did we cover it all?

J: We’re working hard every day to bring products and services to this community.  And behind the scenes, we work hard to make sure we’ve got the infrastructure, the properly trained and funded police and fire departments, and making sure the schools are organized in a way that they meet all the needs of all the students… So there’s a lot of great things going on behind the scenes that will continue to make this one of the greatest places to live around.  No doubt about that.

K: So you’re saying there that the growth is—in that you mentioned it earlier—that it’s strategic.  It’s planned.  So the infrastructure is being built behind it, and emphasis is going on that so we do preserve what we have.

J: Right.  And Collierville has always been great about infrastructure development in advance of commercial development. You know, Houston Levee was widened years before anything was going on down there.  We widened Shelby in advance of the new high school.  Byhalia was widened in advance of the high school.  So there’s lots of projects that happen around town that are being done now because of what’s coming down the road.

K: That’s awesome.  That’s awesome.  Well, we appreciate you sitting with us today.

J: Thanks for having me.  I enjoyed it.  Good seeing you as well.

K: Yeah, you too. Thanks!

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