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Retail growth has far-reaching effects

The signs of economic growth in Rochester are fairly easy to find these days, especially along U.S. 63 South. The new Toyota dealership, Fleet Farm and Lowe’s, and the soon-to-open Target, Dick’s Sporting Goods and Galaxy 14 Cine in the Shoppes on Maine development demonstrate that Rochester continues to defy any national economic doldrums.

The effects of added jobs and sales tax revenue from these businesses are readily apparent.

But the positive effect of this growth goes far beyond what’s happening within these specific businesses. By raising the bar in terms of service and product offerings, these new stores put pressure on other retailers to respond — and respond they have.

Gander Mountain, for example, had long endured cramped conditions in its store at Crossroads Shopping Center in south Rochester. It seems quite likely that the new Fleet Farm’s 40,000 square feet of sporting goods, as well as arrival of Dick’s, played a role in prompting Gander Mountain to move to the former Econofoods site in Northwest Plaza, tripling its floor space, adding 20 additional employees and greatly increasing its available products and services.

Going back a bit further, Menards south underwent a $2 million expansion and renovation in 2005 and 2006, a project that increased the store’s size by half and also added new employees. Although Store Manager Bryan Wilson in April said the changes were to make shopping more convenient, it’s a safe assumption that expected competition from Lowe’s and the new Fleet Farm played a role in the expansion.

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The picture isn’t entirely rosy, as there is no shortage of open retail and office space in Rochester. The arrival of HOM Furniture in the former Carson Pirie Scott site in the Miracle Mile shopping center would be a big boost, but it will take time for the city’s growth to trickle down into some of the smaller, less-prominent potential business sites.

But trickle down it will, as entrepreneurs seize the opportunity to get more square footage for every dollar they invest.

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