Market studies often do an exceptional job of telling us what we already know.
Such was the case with last year's study commissioned by the county's Convention and Visitors Bureau. Among other things, it revealed Columbia County has done a good job of creating new facilities, but hasn't made it easy for outsiders to find them.
Anyone who has ever tried to give a visitor directions to the amphitheater in Evans could have told us that. But it definitely helps to hear it from an outsider.
It was insiders, though, who told us what we already know about county retail opportunities - namely, that there aren't enough of them.
The "insiders," in this case, are county residents responding to a survey by the county's planning staff. To no one's surprise, the study says residents readily travel outside the county or hop on the Internet to buy things they can't find here.
County officials, of course, view such activity as sales tax revenue escaping. But sales taxes are just a minor consequence of retail activity. It's the tail, not the dog - and shoppers rarely will sacrifice their own desires just to keep tax dollars flowing into government coffers.
Fortunately, local planners understand that. The result is an effort to revamp county rules to attract businesses. The standards themselves aren't changing, but officials hope to remove some of the bureaucratic roadblocks that can make it frustrating for would-be business owners to set up shop.
Then, if they build it, those shoppers will come - to their own county.
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