A new online database created by the Austin Independent Business Alliance (AIBA) will help local entrepreneurs find space for their businesses and give property owners and developers a way to recruit more independent businesses to their properties.
“The national chains all have brokers finding them space, so if you’re a local looking to expand like we are, this tool helps even the playing field,” said Rick Engel, co-owner of Austin Java and Little Woodrow’s.
Two years ago, retail developers in Austin, Texas, began meeting with the AIBA, a coalition of some 300 locally owned businesses, to talk about ways that they could work together to bring more independent businesses to both neighborhood and downtown redevelopment projects, as well as new shopping centers.
The developers reported that, largely because of AIBA’s buy local campaign, their market surveys were finding that residents wanted to see more independent businesses and fewer chains in their projects.
The problem was that the developers did not have a way to find local entrepreneurs looking for space. Most developers work with national and regional leasing brokers who have rolodexes full names like Starbucks, Blockbuster Video, and Barnes & Noble. No similar mechanism exists to connect independent business owners with developers.
AIBA decided to try to fill that void.
Last May, the group organized a trade show in which developers set up booths displaying drawings of upcoming projects, while independent entrepreneurs walked around and identified potential locations for their businesses and introduced themselves. Banks and other local lenders were also present at the show, and workshops on a variety of business development topics, including financing and leasing, were held.
The trade show was such a success that AIBA will be doing it again this May with an expanded line-up of workshops.
The Commercial Vacancies database adds yet another tool for connecting property owners and entrepreneurs, said AIBA director Melissa Miller.
Right now, the database only has a few listing, but Miller says that, as she lines up developers to participate in the trade show in May, she’ll be letting them know about the database and encouraging them to list space.