CRESTVIEW — The Community Redevelopment Agency has decided not to renew their contract with Retail Strategies, the national marketing firm hired by the CRA to recruit businesses to the district.

The CRA hired the Birmingham, Alabama firm to bring retail and restaurants specifically to the CRA district; according to CRA Director Alisa Burleson, that has not happened.

Burleson said Retail Strategies has recruited two businesses to Crestview, neither of which will open within the CRA district. The contract between the CRA and the firm ends in October.

The cost of renewing the contract would be $30,000. Burleson said that if they were to renew, it would be contingent upon Retail Strategies only focusing on the CRA district. The problem is, she said, the firm focuses on larger corporations that don’t have a place within the CRA district due to building size and parking restrictions.

Burleson had another idea: to hire a firm or an individual that knows the area and the district. Burleson said the CRA should look into building partnerships with businesses such as the Emerald Coast Association of Realtors, the Small Business Administration and the National Federation of Independent Business.

The ECAR will know who wants to come to the area, and recruiting businesses to Crestview would benefit them, as well, according to Burleson. The SBA could provide information and incentives, and the NFIB could provide seminars training individuals who are interested in opening their own business. There would be no contractual obligation to these organizations.

“These funds are better utilized doing things for small businesses,” Burleson said.

The board agreed.

CRA Commissioner Doug Faircloth said that the CRA still needs a marketing firm, but it should be someone who knows the area — and it should not cost $30,000. Commissioner Bill Cox said he is “less than impressed” with Retail Strategies’ performance, and that in their contract it said the firm is not required to give the Crestview CRA any face time during the second and third year of their agreement.

“For Crestview to thrive and grow, we need more mom-and-pop operations, not national chains,” Commissioner Shannon Hayes said.

Chairman JB Whitten agreed, and said that he didn’t enjoy the firm’s unfamiliarity with the location because there was no “personal touch.” The first year of the contract consisted of Retail Strategies conducting research on the area.

According to Burleson, the CRA can set up booths at retail conventions and recruit businesses just as Retail Strategies does.

Commissioner Ron Gautney made the motion to not renew the CRA’s contract with Retail Strategies; Cox seconded the motion; all board members were in favor. Joe Blocker was absent from the meeting.