Christopher Rosacker

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May 1, 2013
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Grass Valley survey aimed a capturing lost retail $$

Looking at as much as $200 million lost annually to retail stores in areas like Auburn and Roseville, Grass Valley’s leaders are asking area residents to take a survey to determine what sorts of stores and purchases would be a good fit for Nevada County. 

The survey, available on the city’s website, has already garnered more than 300 responses in its first week. 

The effort is occurring as North Auburn prepares for the development of both a new Walmart and a Costco. City Manager Dan Holler told The Union April 15 that those stores would “suck more sales tax dollars.” 

Councilwoman Lisa Swarthout discussed some options at a mid-April meeting with residents along the city’s southern border, an area eyed for annexation and rezoning. That area could be fitted to allow for a big-box retail store, such as a Target, Swarthout said then. 

One popular option among county residents will remain a pipe dream, according to Swarthout.

“We will never get a Trader Joe’s,” she said, noting the store’s education standards for potential locations.

“We know there are certain retailers our community would not like, and some that are on the line and others they will embrace fully,” said Jeri Amendola, Grass Valley’s economic development coordinator.  

The survey asks questions about when and where Grass Valley residents and workers shop, what type of merchandise they shop for and what influences their choice of store. It also asks which specific businesses participants would like to see located in Grass Valley.

The long list includes Kohl’s and Target, as well as restaurants such as Applebee’s and Outback Steakhouse, all identified by a Texas-based research firm, the Buxton Company, as locations where Nevada County residents are already spending money.

“There is not an individual that at some point is not going down the hill to shop,” Amendola said. 

Under a $65,000 contract with Grass Valley, Buxton produced a 2011 retail sales and surplus analysis showing that the Grass Valley area loses more than $200 million annually in retail sales leakage to other communities, such as Auburn, Roseville and Sacramento. 

Leading up to that time, Grass Valley’s more than $10 million general fund was $1.5 million lower than its fiscal year 2007-08 peak at nearly $11.56 million. Nevada City has lost $487,000 from 2008-09 levels, according to its city documents.

“There are certain things we can’t bring back, like car dealerships,” Amendola said. “What we want to know is how we can best fill those retail amenities to best serve our consumers.”

But, Amendola noted, every dollar Grass Valley can retain or attract is money that stays in the community.  

“An improved local retail economy is an opportunity for the city to increase its tax base and become more fiscally sound, resulting in improved and expanded services, enhanced neighborhood amenities, new jobs and providing residents convenient access to goods and services,” she said in a press release. 

The survey takes no longer than 10 minutes to complete. Participants can choose to remain anonymous or share their contact information if they wish to have further discussions with the city.

All surveys will remain confidential. The survey responses will be analyzed and summarized to provide feedback to the public in early summer.

“This is a proactive step instead of waiting for someone to come and start a project,” Amendola said. “We are doing some of the homework.” 

Participants are also asked to participate in focus groups, Three focus sessions are planned to further discuss the survey findings. 

“This is not only about attracting. It is about offering knowledge and doing a retail analysis of what we can provide for our local businesses,” Amendola said. 

Information gleaned from the surveys could also benefit local businesses either looking for opportunities to expand or let them know to market better what they already offer, she said.

“We really want the Penn Valley, North San Juan, Washington, Colfax and Rough and Ready communities’ input as well,” Amendola said. 

The survey, available on the city’s website, as well as those of the Grass Valley Downtown Association, the Nevada County Economic Resource Council and the chambers of commerce, is sponsored by the city of Grass Valley and implemented by economic development consulting firm Chabin Concepts of Chico.

For more information and to complete the survey, go to

To contact Staff Writer Christopher Rosacker, email or call (530) 477-4236.

“There is not an individual that at some point is not going down the hill to shop.”

— Jeri Amendola, Grass Valley’s economic development coordinator

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The Union Updated Jul 19, 2013 02:37PM Published May 7, 2013 09:13AM Copyright 2013 The Union. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.