Supporting Growth of Local Businesses
DESOTO – It was in 2017 that DeSoto reached out to local entrepreneurs collaborating with them to help get their businesses off the ground with the city’s local business incubator, the Grow DeSoto Marketplace.
Co-founded by current DeSoto Mayor Rachel Proctor and an EDC board member the mayor said recently when discussing her re-election campaign that the incubator is part of the city’s economic development future too.
“We have the Hampton Road Development project, but we have more than that,” she said. “One of the other things that is a piece to this in terms of economic development is continuing to foster that entrepreneurial spirit the City of DeSoto has developed.”
Nowhere is that spirit more apparent than Grow DeSoto Marketplace. In short, the incubator is a small business platform that has gone through some changes since it was conceived five years ago, and it is still growing.
“I think over time it got a little off track from the original vision and intent,” Proctor said. “I think it has been successful to a degree in terms of some of the things it was designed to accomplish, but there is always tweaking and things like that you have to do to make sure it is still accomplishing what you want it to accomplish.”
Proctor said it is imperative to make sure Grow DeSoto Marketplace is a support to the local entrepreneurs, and she is always asking “is there a way that is better.”
Grow DeSoto Advisory Team
At the five-year mark this year, Proctor recently developed the Grow Desoto Advisory Team. The team is a group of community stakeholders who are on hand to assess how the Grow DeSoto Marketplace has been successful. In addition they are analyzing what can be done to make sure they know what to do to move forward.
“We have been working with the property owner Monte Anderson and some community members in general and I am happy to report that even just after a month or two of meetings we already have a plan to do focus groups around this with the current and some former tenants,” Proctor said. “We want to be able to really get the data we need to make an informed decision on how we want it to be to move forward.”
The Grow DeSoto Marketplace, which sits in the 26,000-square-feet former Westlake Ace Hardware Store on Belt Line Road between Polk Street and Hampton Road was originally created as the necessary sounding board to allow new businesses to show their product or service to the public.
High Level Assessment of DeSoto’s Economic Development
During the pandemic, the marketplace did not evict tenants and instead adjusted the rent for tenants based on sales generated.
Overall, Proctor said economic development is one of the issues that is a big deal for DeSoto and the Grow DeSoto Marketplace has a place in that discussion.
“I have not come in right away and tried to throw programming at it, but really take a high-level assessment to get to the root causes of why we don’t have the economic development that we really desire,” she concluded looking at the city’s bigger picture overall. “Cities don’t develop cities, developers develop cities. It behooves us to build these relationships so we can give developers who come in we can give them our vision to really give us what we want to see and work together as partners on that.”