By L&T Publisher Earl Watt
Perusing the blogosphere around Liberal indicates that there are some that want to see Liberal grow at a faster pace.
Wanting Liberal to grow is one thing, being committed to what it takes is another matter entirely.
In researching some of the growth in other communities in our region, there is a pattern, and it doesn’t instantly start with some big name retailer coming to town.
That’s what we all want, right? More shopping, more dining, more, more, more.
But restaurant chains and retailers do not simply drop their finger on a map and say, “Let’s go there.”
They follow trends and patterns, and communities that take steps up-front are those that are chosen for expansion.
Retailers pay a lot of attention to expanding hotels and motels.
Woodward has seen some growth recently, and it has followed a mini oil boom in the area that has resulted in additional motels. With the motels came retail.
Notice that there was a boom of some sort in front of the motels which were in front of the retail.
For growth to occur takes some action prior to construction.
Sometimes, like the Woodward scenario, it is an obvious influx in a certain industry.
There are other avenues to growth that do not always depend on booms, which are usually followed by busts.
Another indicator that motels use in determining where they will expand is a community with high occupancy rates that indicates room for additional motel space.
This is certainly the case in Liberal.
Many nights through the week, Liberal’s motels are filled to capacity.
Local motel owners do have availability on the weekends, and they have asked for local activities over the weekend that would fill the motels.
This is our best avenue for growth.
Why is it important to fill the motels?
Because retailers also look at motel capacity and occupancy when deciding which communities will be home to their newest stores.
If you look at Garden City, Dodge City, Woodward, Perryton, even Guymon, you will see they have had several new motels in recent years.
Liberal has added motels but the numbers indicate we still have not yet met demand.
Why is this important to retailers when deciding where to expand?
Motel occupancy provides a retailer with some key information.
First, it shows the community is a destination, and these visitors add to the customer base of the local population.
It also indicates that the community is active. If a community is bringing in visitors to attend local events, they are also prime customers for new businesses, but it also tells the retailers that the community is alive.
So, the secret to a growing community is to be an active community. It means having community events, athletic tournaments and utilizing facilities for concerts, exhibits and entertainment.
Being active means supporting our attractions like the Mid-America Air Museum, Dorothy’s House and Baker Arts Center.
It also means having recreational facilities and using them with weekend tournaments that draw players, parents and fans to town.
We need to commit ourselves to supporting these ventures by having facilities that can be used for these activities, and to use the facilities we currently have as often as possible.
When Liberal is abuzz with activities, motels and retailers will want to be a part of the action.
When you look at growing communities, look at their activities, and you will see towns that are alive.
Many of these events require volunteers, boards and active associations.
If you are on a local board that maybe sponsors one or two events a year, it’s time to up the ante. Liberal has 52 weekends a year, and our organizations need to find ways to fill every single one of them.
If you want more shopping options, more dining, more motels, more, more, more, then you have to be doing more in the community.
We need to be a more active community, and the more active we are, the better we grow.