MORROW A pair of well-connected business owners are calling on Morrow officials do a better job of nurturing businesses in the city.
Lister and Holt business manager Kim Lister and Saavi Formal Wear owner Sandra Henderson told the Morrow City Council Tuesday they did not feel the city was doing enough to retain its businesses. They also said the city should be doing more to bring in new businesses.
They cited the departure of several high profile stores from the Morrow area as the basis of their concerns.
“I’m afraid some more businesses are going to leave the city,” Lister said. “The city should be concentrating on promoting and retaining businesses. We are here before you because we care and we are concerned.”
Lister and Henderson did not outright criticize any particular city officials. But, their comment echoed criticisms levied against the town’s planning and economic development department last fall.
In September, the owner of a Haunted House accused Economic Development Director Michael McLaughlin of telling him his business was not welcome in the city, and of stalling his efforts to get a business permit. Shortly after that, it came to light that churches and community groups were charged for event permits which did not legally exist.
After those criticisms came to light, the haunted house quickly got its business permit and the churches and community groups were refunded the money they paid for the event permits.
Lister and Henderson are involved in groups such as Arts Clayton and Morrow’s own Imagine Morrow consortium. Therefore, their voices carry a little more weight than other people who have previously expressed concerns about economic development issues in the city.
They said they are part of the Clayton County community and would rather have opportunities to spend their money in the county’s main commercial center than go to Fulton and Henry counties to shop and eat.
“We’re concerned that this is the time to be aggressive and not complacent,” Lister said.
Henderson said she has been a business owner in Morrow 33 years and recent departures of well-known national store chains has alarmed her.
In recent years, Morrow has lost chain stores including J.C. Penny’s, Toys R Us and Havertys to the South Point shopping area in nearby McDonough. The city came close in December to losing Barnes and Noble as well, but Mayor Joseph “J.B.” Burke stepped in and convinced the book store’s landlord to lower the rent, Lister said.
That, in turn, got Barnes and Noble to agree to stay another 18 months.
Henderson said Morrow can’t afford to be in a position to lose more stores to McDonough.
“We stayed but a lot of the people who started when we started are not there anymore and we don’t need any more businesses leaving the city,” Henderson said.
Burke said the city did send out letters to 10 national chain businesses, including Trader Joes, Starbucks and Pappadeaux Seafood Kitchen, to encourage them to relocate to Morrow. Of those 10 businesses, only one has so far responded.
“We did hear back from Trader Joes and they said they are looking at the area, but have not confirmed where they will choose,” Burke said.