Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV


January 14, 2013

Big box inquiries — Making a case for Target, Home Depot

Ask area residents what new store or retail development they would like to see in the region, and you will normally get two near unanimous responses — Target and Home Depot.

Of course, what we really need in the area right now are new high-paying manufacturing jobs. But let’s face it, area residents would like to shop at Target and Home Depot without having to travel to Christiansburg, Va., or Roanoke, Va. And we can’t blame them. We would like to see the two big box chains in our area as well — and preferably sooner rather than later. We don’t care if it is in Princeton, Bluefield or Bluefield, Va., and neither do area residents. They would just like to see these big box chains — and others — expand to our area.

What we know, or at least what we are being told by area development officials, is that representatives of both Target and Home Depot have been looking at interstate exit sites in Mercer County for possible future development at or around Exit 9 in Princeton. The last time they were here looking was apparently about a month and a half ago.

That’s a good first step. However, companies look at sites for possible expansions all of the time — even during a rough economy. The bigger question is what are local development officials, county commissioners and others doing to actively recruit, entice and encourage the big box chains to make a commitment to our area?

Are local leaders calling the corporate offices of Target and Home Depot on a regular basis to make an argument for a Mercer County expansion? Are we offering them local incentives and tax credits to consider an expansion to our area? Are we meeting with corporate representatives of these and other big box chains on a regular basis — showing possible sites for expansion while also finding out what the needs of these companies are? If we aren’t, we most certainly should be.

It’s no secret that the area around Exit 9 — as well as just west of Exit 9 at Princeton — would be ideal for such stores. The interstate traffic almost all but guarantees a healthy flow of customers. Space is currently limited along Exit 9, but the old Kmart site is ready for growth.

There is also space — and now water — just west of Exit 9 toward Oakvale. In fact, there is a lot of property in that area available for development, according to Robert Farley, executive director of the Princeton-Mercer County Chamber of Commerce. The Exit 14 interchange near Athens is also an area prime for future growth. And with the approval of Bluefield’s annexation request at John Nash Boulevard, Exit 1 in Bluefield is also an area ready for growth.

Area leaders must reach out to Target, Home Depot, and other big box chains and restaurants, and let them know that they are welcomed and wanted in Mercer County.


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