I owe everybody an explanation. Sure, I showed everybody what I was doing with a post on Facebook about Olive Garden but what I failed to do was explain the details. In all fairness I gave everybody my email and phone number in my first blog so anybody could have called me and I would have told them. In fact, I was in some pretty strange places when I got asked about what was going on and I really don’t mind that. So here are the details and at the same time lets chat about some other things we learned from all of this.
What led to the Facebook post? Well… I was addressing 1 of the 3 things people ask me about most on the job. 1 being Fleet Farm (stay tuned), 2 being Target (that’s a tough one for another day) and 3 Olive Garden. I looked up how to get an Olive Garden in the City of West Bend and decided it was worth pursuing. Take a look at the photo below, it was easy enough to have our amazing GIS specialist rubber stamp this over a piece of property and say “how ’bout it?”.
I am also addressing something else at the same time. People love economic development, Lord knows I do. We have some projects in the city that I can take you guys on the ride with me. Olive Garden never came to me, I reached out to them and you can all come with me. Maybe we as a group can identify other projects you would like to see and we could all try together again. Before we get in to how this will work I have to get something else out of the way.
Some people really do like Olive Garden and that is okay. Some people don’t and the great thing about that which many people mentioned is that we have amazing restaurants all over the city. Did you know that if we get an Olive Garden you as a resident of the City of West Bend are not required to eat at it? You have that choice. A recent article in “Business in Focus” Magazine called us friendly. Let’s continue to be friendly and we can keep doing these things together. Maybe I poked the bear, which I can admit, but bears can be friendly too.
On another note some restaurant owners around the city and the surrounding area asked me about the Olive Garden post. When I told them what I was doing they liked the idea. Not because they want to eat at Olive Garden but when we all know what is happening we can stop talking about the Olive Garden so much. You see, for the most part restaurant owners in the city don’t see Olive Garden as a threat or competition. Some are also at a different price point which means it is not a comparable product they are competing with.
Let’s recap and get to what’s next for us. The city posted to our Facebook page a picture of me with a site proposal for Olive Garden. I sent it Darden Restaurants who manages Olive Gardens around the country. Next week I will be following up to them to get a response, at the same time I will be sending them many of your responses from the Facebook post to show that there is a lot of excitement for them in the area. If they say, “yes” then we will work out the details and stay in touch on the process. If they say, “no” then we no longer will be actively discussing Olive Garden as a possibility for the City of West Bend.
If we are going to be doing economic development together then now is a good time to review site selection criteria. Darden Restaurant Group has certain criteria they need to consider when putting in an Olive Garden. Do we meet the standards… let’s review!
1) Trade area with a minimum of 100,000 people – We have that in Washington County alone, not to mention surrounding neighborhoods outside the county.
2) 20,000 Average Daily Traffic – We have that along W. Washington and we put that in the site proposal for proof.
3) 2 Acres to place the building and parking lot – This is why the old Perkins lot that everyone talks about won’t work as a spot. We have spots elsewhere.
4) Prime regional focal point – We are the county seat!
Economic development is tough stuff, fun and thankfully we can do it together. Give Darden Restaurants a call and tell them you know they have a site proposal from the City of West Bend. I don’t know where their head is at right now with the city but our plan is to obtain a response from them. I will make you this promise, when they do call I will let you all know. Additionally, I will keep you up to date on my economic development efforts. So have fun and be cool because these things can take a while.