Denver’s Office of Economic Development (OED) has launched a new incentive program aimed at strengthening the city’s retail sector, adding jobs and increasing retail sales tax revenues for the city, Denver officials said Wednesday.

The new “Retail Attraction Program,” funded initially with $200,000 approved in the 2014 city budget, provides an incentive pool for the OED to attract prospective retailers to Denver.

The program supports small to mid-sized retailers and is focused on “first-in-market” retailers, locally unique stores and those that fill a particular gap where customers’ needs are not being met, city officials said.

The program is aimed at new retailers to the market or existing retailers seeking to add additional stores to better serve their Denver customers.

“We now have a comprehensive, robust retail recruitment strategy and toolkit that should result in increased retail sales tax activity,” said Paul Washington, OED executive director.

The new dollars available to support retail growth reinforces the city’s recruitment package overall, Washington said, which already includes a business personal property tax credit, site selection assistance and other strategic lending options, as well as workforce development services, such as job fairs and custom training.

In addition, the OED has created a new retail recruitment and marketing website —— to showcase Denver’s entrepreneurs, restaurants, shopping districts and a mapping and data tool.

Targeted to retailers and retail real estate professionals, the site declares, “You can’t spell ‘authenticity’ without ‘the city,'” and urges visitor to think of Denver as “an urban garden where retail grows.” It will be updated monthly to include additional retail areas throughout the city.

“We’re committed to growing Denver’s retail scene, providing a supportive environment to deliver a more robust offering of retailers that meets the shopping needs of our residents and visitors,” said Mayor Michael Hancock.

“We are delivering on the first steps under the city’s strategic retail plan to grow Denver’s retail markets by strengthening the city’s retail hubs and by bringing more opportunity to business districts throughout the city,” he added.

Last year, the city commissioned the “Retail Conditions and Opportunities” study, which highlighted Denver’s potential to become a recognized retail center, but also defined:

  • Challenges around the city’s lack of large-site general merchandise stores;
  • Sales tax revenue “leakage” that occurs when city residents shop elsewhere; and
  • The need for a more concerted retail recruitment strategy on the part of local government.

“The combination of the new [web]site and the new incentive strategy is a significant milestone of our JumpStart 2014 strategic plan for economic development,” Washington said. “We look forward to exciting announcements in the future as these efforts bear fruit.”

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