Retail businesses may improve Provo’s economy

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    By CATHERINE CORBETT and AMY FOX

    When students return to start the new school year, they will have several new stores to shop at in Provo.

    With Dillard’s grand opening Wednesday and The Shops at Riverwoods’ grand opening celebration Saturday, Provo is suddenly booming with retail business.

    Provo Mayor Lewis Billings is excited about all of the growth.

    “It is a really great day for Provo,” Billings said.

    Billings is not concerned with the retail market in Provo growing too fast. He said these two centers have changed the market dynamics for the city.

    “The kinds of people that would shop here would normally have gone to Park City or to Salt Lake City,” Billings said.

    The economic impact of having two new shopping centers in the city could be tremendous.

    “It will have a very, very positive economic impact on Provo City. We have the opportunity to provide for our citizens a full range of goods and services,” said Leland Gamette, Provo City’s director of economic development.

    City officials are not worried about the two shopping centers competing against each other.

    “The two don’t directly compete; they draw two kinds of shopping interests,” Billings said.

    Gamette said he is not at all worried about the market not being able to support both centers. He said the developers carefully analyzed the market before investing their money in the developments.

    “They are very aware of what the market can and cannot support,” Gamette said.

    Not everyone is convinced, however, that Provo hasn’t crossed the line of the number of retail stores the market can support.

    “We’re probably getting to the upper end as far as how much we can handle. We’re pretty close to saturation,” said Provo and Orem Chamber of Commerce President Steve Densley.

    Densley said he does believe it may have a negative impact on some of the smaller businesses in the area, but added it is part of the free-enterprise system.

    “We will have as good a retail sector as any place in the state by far,” Densley said.

    Densley agrees with Billings about attracting shoppers that have been taking their money to other cities.

    “A lot of people have chosen to go elsewhere to shop, but this gives us the opportunity to recapture the market and broaden our tax base,” Densley said.

    Everyone seems to be excited about what the tax revenue could do for the city.

    “We could spend a thousand times the revenues we’ll get. We just have to make our priorities,” Billings said.

    Billings said public safety and enhancing the quality of life in Provo are two of his priorities as mayor.

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