By Cain Madden/NEMS Daily Journal
Jay Shannon opened his first business in Saltillo in 1994.
Since then, he has gone on to develop three residential subdivisions in Saltillo and three commercial centers.
Recently, one of his commercial centers, Center City Market, has come under scrutiny from the community. Shannon wanted to have his property at 891 Old Highway 45 rezoned from residential to commercial so he could recruit a national chain to the location. Residents felt it would change the character of the neighborhood, and ultimately, Saltillo’s Board of Aldermen denied the zoning request.
Shannon met with the Daily Journal at Center City Market and answered a few questions.
Q. Describe the efforts you have made in securing a future for the center.
A. I take every opportunity to recruit businesses to Saltillo, whether it’s to Center City Market, Town Creek District or Desert Cove Commons. Often I refer prospects to other developers/landowners and landlords if I cannot accommodate their needs. It’s not just about filling space, it’s about meeting the needs of the business owners and our citizens. When I couldn’t recruit a grocery store, I opened one myself.
Q. What is your vision for the future of the center?
A. I believe that in the near future Center City Market will be a bustling retail center with a variety of businesses, including a supermarket, retail, restaurants, and professional business, thus living up to its name.
Q. How are the businesses that are there doing now? Do you know what sort of property/sales tax they are providing to the city?
A. I believe all the businesses at CCM are doing well considering the economic climate we are in and the fact that most people don’t realize that shopping locally first really does make a difference in the success of our businesses. In fact, 68 cents of every dollar spent locally comes back to Saltillo.
This property that CCM now occupies generated under a thousand dollars as vacant land but now generates over $24,000 a year in property taxes. As for sales tax, there were none being produced as vacant land; now we have seven businesses.
Q. Do you have any thoughts on the rezoning vote?
A. I do. I regret that Saltillo’s mayor and board turned down a national retailer that would have provided much-needed jobs and sales tax dollars, because of a few. I believe that the majority of Saltillo’s citizens would have benefitted from it. I guess it’s just small-town politics.
Q. If Saltillo is so much trouble, why not move your center?
A. I’m not sure what you mean – Saltillo is not the problem; it’s our lack of real leadership. Saltillo is a great place to invest in the future by starting a business, buying a home and raising a family.
Q. How invested in the future of Saltillo are you? How much money do you have in it?
A. My and my children’s future are vested in these Saltillo properties. Although it gets discouraging at times, I know the majority of people appreciate what we have done and Saltillo is a better place because of it.
Q. If there is no business, what is the future of Saltillo?
A. There are plenty of opportunities here; we just need to take advantage of that opportunity and encourage businesses, instead of discouraging businesses. It takes more than sleeping here and sending our kids to school here to have a well-rounded community.
Q. How do you envision Saltillo developing?
A. Just as I did 17 years ago when I opened my first business here. It is not too late to make up the ground we have lost to Guntown, Mooreville and other parts of Lee County. We have had some setbacks due to the economy and insufficient leadership. This is evident in the number of businesses that have closed and the even smaller number that have opened.
Q. What sort of support do you need to have properties thrive from the city? The community?
A. We need a pro-business, progressive approach from the city administration. They need to lead by example and support all our local businesses. From the community … again, just remember to shop Saltillo first before automatically heading to Tupelo to spend your hard-earned dollars.
Q. What exactly happened with the Piggly Wiggly?
A. We were a victim of the economy and banking crisis that affected so many other individuals and businesses alike. My lack of experience in the grocery business didn’t help matters at all. I still think we need a supermarket here and will do everything I can to recruit one.
Q. What do you plan to do with the building? Has anyone expressed interest?
A. It was built to be the area’s nicest supermarket and it will be.
Q. How have you adjusted to the criticism?
A. If you are talking about the false statements made by a few about me and my developments. …It’s discouraging but I realize everyone has their own opinions.
Q. Why do you think people are so critical?
A. When someone appears to be successful there are always those that want to find fault in their success. There are those that go out and make things happen and then there are those that sit back and criticize the efforts being done.
Q. Are you going to make any efforts to improve this perception?
A. I am going to do what I believe is best for Saltillo and my family. CCM is the nicest shopping center Saltillo has and possibly will ever have.
I am sure I have made mistakes but I am proud of all my developments and the business owners that have chosen to locate here. I am truly thankful for their business.
Q. What do you feel like is the biggest misperception of you?
A. I am an entrepreneur and businessman. When you change things that people are accustomed to, you are going to have people that don’t agree with the change. Those are the ones that always voice their opinions, not the ones that agree with the change.