Kirk Clennan sends many emails to many people in his capacity as Leander's economic development director. His job is to bring new businesses to Leander.
Now, Clennan is asking for help from Leander's residents to supplement the work he does to help bring in the businesses residents want most. On the city's website, he posted a list of email addresses for people in a variety of positions who could potentially help bring new business to the city.
"I feel like I am speaking with one voice to our potential retail prospects, and as the economic development director, I talk about and sell the community as a whole. But maybe the retail site selectors—whether they're tenant representatives or they are the retailers themselves—maybe they just need to hear it straight from the residents of a community," Clennan said.
Clennan started with a list of more than 60,000 names and narrowed it down to approximately 2,500. The list is located on the city's website under the Site/Facility Inventory page and is called "ICSC Retailers and Developers, 2010."
"The challenge or potential obstacle is becoming a nuisance versus taking a professional approach and taking your pitch to the site selectors and meeting with them on a professional basis," said Cynthia Stewart, director of community relations for the International Council of Shopping Centers.
Clennan acknowledged that there is a chance the move might rub some people the wrong way.
"We've been round and round about that, because on the one hand, yes, they could perceive this as being pushy and really, really aggressive," Clennan said. "But I've taken somewhat of a Hollywood approach to this. If they're not talking about us, that's a problem."
However, Stewart said there is also a chance the strategy could pay off.
"If there's a bubble or a close line between them and another city, it is possible it could make a difference," she said. "It won't matter how many emails they send if it doesn't make financial sense to the retailer."
Stewart said she heard a story about a town in Colorado that encouraged city residents to take out credit cards for a specific retailer, and Stewart said the strategy ended up being successful.
Clennan said he decided against providing a form letter because he thinks the emails residents send should be personal and simple.
"They just need to say, 'My name is blank and my family and I live in Leander, Texas. We've lived here for X amount of years. We believe you'd be a great addition to our community,'" Clennan said.