When news broke Wednesday that Kroger decided to close its Brownwood location, City Manager Emily Crawford corresponded with Kroger Corporate and offered the City and BMDD’s support to keep the store open. Kroger stated that the Brownwood store had been underperforming for several years. “Even with offers to assist, Kroger was not willing to re-consider,” stated Crawford. However, this was not the first time the City had corresponded with Kroger about the Brownwood store.
In 2011, the City, BEDC and Chamber engaged a retail consultant to assist with retail recruitment. “The research from our consultant showed that the grocery store market was underserved in our community,” stated Mayor Stephen Haynes. Mayor Haynes contacted Kroger Corporate about replacing or expanding its store, but they respectfully declined. Next, the City reached out to other grocery store companies. “United saw the opportunity and was willing to invest in Brownwood,” said Mayor Haynes. United received a $360,000 incentive from the BMDD. The incentive was to get the property up out of the flood plain, an unfunded mandate from the federal government over which the City has no control. The need to build up the pad site was a cost that was prohibiting any new business from occupying the former Holley car lot. “United has 150 employees and has been a good community partner, contributing to many local organizations,” said Mayor Haynes.
In October of 2017, the BMDD heard a rumor about Kroger closing. BMDD Executive Director Guy Andrews made contact with Kroger Corporate and offered assistance to the Brownwood store. He received no response from Kroger.
When Kroger confirmed that there was no option of staying in Brownwood, City and BMDD staff immediately began contacting retail developers and site selectors to notify them of the upcoming vacancy. The property is not owned by Kroger. “The property owner is already receiving calls,” stated Mayor Haynes.
Kroger stated about half of the 61 employees are full-time, and relocation and severance packages would be offered. The BMDD is working with the local store and Texas Workforce Solutions to coordinate a job fair for the impacted employees. “In a low unemployment environment like we are experiencing, employers are having a very difficult time finding qualified people to fill their positions,” stated Marshal McIntosh of the BMDD. “We want to connect those qualified employees with companies who need them, and will do so by working with the business community and the Chamber of Commerce.”
“We never want to see a business close,” said City Manager Crawford. “However, this was a corporate decision and now we must make the best of the situation by helping our citizens with employment and recruiting another retailer to the space. With the changing dynamics of retail, we will continue to be diligent in recruiting businesses to Brownwood.”