Many residents inquire about the city’s role in bringing new retailers and industry into our community. An important thing to understand is the difference between a “primary” and “secondary” job in economic development terms, and how they relate to each other.

In economic development, a primary job is one that produces goods or services for customers who are predominantly coming to Visalia from outside the local community. This generates new “outside” dollars for circulation in the local economy. Once an employer is paid for those products or services, they redistribute that new wealth into the community through wages paid to local employees and through suppliers, which turns into local expenditures, including mortgage or rent payments and consumer spending. A healthy, diverse local economy has a robust primary job sector as it supports secondary job creation.

Secondary jobs are those that serve the local community such as automotive services, retail, dining, cultural and entertainment-related jobs. The goods and services produced are enough to serve a portion, or all, of the local community. However, because Visalia is a regional shopping destination, gateway to Sequoia National Park and services hub for Tulare County (as county seat and home to Kaweah Delta Health Care District and other major medical providers), we benefit from a secondary jobs sector that truly serves a larger regional community and, in some cases, acts as a primary job sector in itself. Our regional draw aids in our ability to attract new secondary jobs, such as retailers, as they assess our greater trade area in addition to our city population.

While primary job growth is paramount to growing the local economy, the secondary job sector can play a significant role in a community’s ability to attract new primary jobs. The secondary sector is a big part of a community’s “quality of life,” which for some companies is a big decision factor in the location process. For example, amenities found downtown and east downtown, along with facilities such as the city’s regional sports park, convention center, golf course, and recreational programs and facilities often play a big part in showcasing the excellent quality of life that Visalia has to offer new company executives and their employees.

The common saying is that retail follows rooftops. As such, city economic development efforts prioritize attracting new and expanding existing primary jobs in Visalia with the aim of growing our local demand for secondary jobs. These efforts include having a business-friendly process, meeting with and assisting local employers experiencing barriers to growth, and supporting workforce development in partnership with the Tulare County Economic Development Corporation and Visalia Economic Development Corporation. However, the city also actively markets to the retail industry with direct recruitment efforts and assisting real estate brokers with requested information.

An example of information that brings greater clarity and tangible meaning to regional buying power (more than simple demographic data would suggest) is the sales tax ranking chart found at right that ranks Visalia locations compared with the rest of the listed brand’s California locations:

This chart effectively illustrates that families in the region enjoy shopping in Visalia and that retail can perform well in our market – in many cases performing among the top outlets in a large chain. While efforts are made to recruit certain retailers into town, it’s important to note that many retailers have particular site and demographic requirements (including population size and characteristics) that often can limit their interest in Visalia. In some cases, recruitment can only be successful once those site requirements can be met.

While we may not be a fit for every retailer, we will continue to work to bring economic diversity and growth to our city. The city does not build or run private businesses. We try to create an attractive and business-friendly environment, and make land-use decisions that facilitate thoughtful and appropriate growth. Beyond that, it is up to individuals, partnerships and corporations to decide that Visalia is where they want to be.