By Matthew DeMeritt, Esri Writer
When a barbecue restaurant closed just off Interstate 10 in Redlands, California, in 2008, workers were laid off and prime real estate stood empty and abandoned. This left the economic development staff at the city's chamber of commerce facing a business challenge: figure out what type of restaurant could thrive in this location and sell the benefits of the area to the prospective tenant. Esri Business Analyst Online software was instrumental in helping the chamber accomplish this.
One of the Redlands Chamber of Commerce's principal missions is to recruit new businesses and fill commercial vacancies. However, until recently, the chamber had nothing data driven to show prospective tenants that moving into sites such as the empty barbecue restaurant on Industrial Park Avenue would be a smart business move.
"We had no tools that allowed us to provide solid information that a developer or business could use to make a good decision," says Kathie Thurston, the chamber's executive director. "We looked to commercial Realtors and city partners to provide us with data, but we never knew if the data was current."
The chamber knew it had to provide accurate, up-to-date data that proved Redlands, a city of 60,000 people located halfway between Los Angeles and Palm Springs, was a viable area where businesses could succeed. In 2009, the organization turned to Redlands, California-based Esri for help. Esri showed the city's economic development staff the on-demand reporting and mapping capabilities of Business Analyst Online, Esri's Web-based solution that combines GIS technology with extensive demographic, consumer spending, and business data.
In 2009, Esri staff members attended the International Conference of Shopping Centers in Las Vegas, Nevada, to show the benefits of Business Analyst Online software. There, they met Ric Holderbaum, real estate director for the Portland, Oregon-based Dussin Group, which owns and manages the Old Spaghetti Factory chain of restaurants.
Holderbaum had mentioned to Esri that the Dussin Group was eyeing Redlands as a possible new location for the Old Spaghetti Factory. To show Holderbaum how maps combined with demographic data could refine Dussin's search, Esri—knowing that the chamber had recently become a user of Business Analyst Online and could further assist him—generated a few simple reports with Business Analyst Online. Intrigued by the specificity of the reports, Holderbaum contacted Thurston to request more detailed analysis of the area.
With the vacant restaurant near Interstate 10 in mind, Thurston set about generating several demographic data reports and a map of the proposed location. This information allowed the city, which partners with the chamber on economic development strategy, to quickly analyze the local market, including the demographic makeup and consumer characteristics of the area. Business Analyst Online was used to easily illustrate demographic data such as detailed income and age profiles and retail goods and services expenditures for the area within a five-minute drive time around the location of the vacant restaurant. The information revealed that a large percentage of Redlands' and nearby cities' populations fit the demographic profile of the customers that The Old Spaghetti Factory traditionally serves.
"Doing a drive-time analysis allowed us to generate a polygon for this specific restaurant and its needs," says Thurston. "We were even able to push the drive time out 20 miles east to two very important neighboring towns, Banning and Beaumont, and capture the demographics from those cities." Business Analyst Online was also used to create a traffic count map that highlighted the proposed location's proximity to Interstate 10, which, being only one block, provided an opportunity for the restaurant to advertise to more than 250,000 motorists each day.
Based on information generated by Business Analyst Online, representatives from the Dussin Group decided to open the Old Spaghetti Factory where the barbecue restaurant once operated. The new restaurant had its grand opening in December 2009, nearly a year after the previous restaurant closed. Since then, the Old Spaghetti Factory has performed extremely well, with brisk and consistent patronage from locals and freeway commuters.
With Business Analyst Online, the chamber was able to promote the area by providing specific data that described residents' dining choices and behavior and gave detailed income and population demographics for Redlands and the surrounding area.
"I always know that when I work with a city that provides Esri data, I can count on information that is accurate, current, and useful for me to make quick, informed decisions," says Holderbaum.