Rush of retailers in the Cedar Valley - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Rush of retailers in the Cedar Valley

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WATERLOO (KWWL) -- When a national chain opens a new store, people tend to get excited. Now, multiply that reaction by four.

"All of the sudden, boom! It's great!" said Michael Baker on his way out of the new Pizza Ranch in Cedar Falls.

"People don't have to drive to Cedar Rapids anymore to get something new," Mary Baker agreed.

The "Coming Soon" or "Now Open" banners are a sign of more than just a new place to dine out or to buy a basketball. It's a sign that things are changing for the better.

"It gives everybody confidence when they can see a number of businesses opening, inviting customers in, the kind of response the ones that have just opened are getting," said Steve Dust, Greater Cedar Valley Alliance & Chamber CEO.

The GCVA reports only a handful of new retail businesses opened in 2008 and 2009. It's not an all-inclusive list, but a good indicator of the economy at the time. Compare that with what's happening over a span of just a few weeks -- three major restaurant chains and a sporting goods store hosting their grand openings. Dust points out, this is the kind of economic growth you notice.

"A retail and a service business wants their customers to come to them, so there's a lot more advertising and fanfare for the grand opening. And that helps the attitude of all us to know that new things are there, there's new places to go, and the economy is doing better than maybe you thought," said Dust.

But here's the thing -- in order for families to spend money, they have to make money. And retailers like Longhorn Steakhouse believe they can turn a profit in the Cedar Valley.

"They're seeking us first because they recognized that we maintained our strength when other places are still trying to find recovery," Dust said.

Dust said the recent economic growth you may not have noticed is in industrial and office opportunities, as well as many small businesses which launched during the recession. He said the fact that major retailers are taking notice speaks directly to that success.

Cedar Valley households spent nearly $2 billion in total retail sales in 2009. About $200 million of that went to restaurants and bars. Sporting goods stores generated about $50 million in sales.

Online Reporter Colleen O'Shaughnessy

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