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COLUMBUS, Miss. (WCBI) — Columbus’ economic development agency will have a say in whether the city hires a consulting firm to market the city to retailers.

The City Council tabled Tuesday night a decision on hiring an Alabama-based Retail Strategies for $88,000 over three years — $40,000 the first year and $24,000 in each of the next two years — to recruit new retailers and put together a marketing strategy and incentive options for potential businesses.

The hiring has support from a majority of the council, but Mayor Robert Smith warned the first $40,000 isn’t budgeted and the city owes the Golden Triangle Development Link a voice in the discussions. To not talk to the Link would send the successful agency a bad message,” Smith said.

“I still think we owe it to the Link where we sit down and discuss this before we take any action on it,” Smith told the Council. “We really need to sit down with Higgins (Link CEO Joe Higgins) and discuss this. I don’t have anything against Retail Strategies but I think we’re sending a bad message.”

Other council members support the move, although they eventually agreed to the dealy.

“The analogy I used is that a winning baseball team has more than one starting pitcher on it,” said Ward 6 Councilman Bill Gavin, noting that with the Link also representing Starkville and West Point, it makes sense for Columbus to have another player representing only its interests.

Some council members also were surprised about the funding issue since City Planner Christina Berry, who recuited Retail Strategies, had told them she had $20,000 in her budget to pay the first half of the first-year payment and the rest could be included in the new city budget that starts Oct. 1.

But Chief Administrative Officer David Armstrong presented council members with figures showing the study was not budgeted although some money could be taken from other budgeted studies and plans to pay for it.

Smith will set up a meeting with Higgins in the next few days to discuss the initiatives.

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