In the next year, Murray will see the completed construction and opening of at least five new food chains and three liquor stores, with more businesses on the way.
A wave of new business is coming to Murray, attracted through a combination of Murray’s growing population, the University and the city’s decision to allow for the sale of packaged liquor.
In the past weeks, three new businesses have opened: Dollar General, Don Taco and Yogurt Your Weigh.
Scheduled to join those and the plethora of other fast food restaurants in Murray are Fazoli’s, Penn Station, Dunkin’ Donuts and Arby’s.
While some students may rejoice at the addition of these new food selections in Murray, others may not understand why the city needs to add any more chain restaurants to its repertoire.
Lance Allison, president of the Murray-Calloway County Chamber of Commerce, said new restaurants are not only important in the role of accommodating residents of the city, but they also serve to draw in people from the surrounding areas and are attractive places for people passing through Murray to spend money.
“Many people think that getting a lot of the same businesses is bad, and say ‘gosh, why are we getting another sandwich shop,’” Allison said. “They don’t think about the outside areas these businesses affect, particularly Mayfield (Ky.) and Paris (Tenn.), and the revenue another sandwich or pizza place draws in.”
Currently, there are approximately 1,600 business licenses in Murray, and of these, the Chamber of Commerce represents more than 700.
According to Allison, Murray was one of the only cities in western Kentucky to grow in the last census, gaining almost 2,000 people. He said the cities surrounding Murray, including Paris lost approximately 500 citizens, while cities even farther away lost numbers at or above 1,000.
With the bump in population comes a more attractive and diverse population who will need more businesses to satisfy the greater demand for products.
Allison said Murray is on the verge of new industry, and with the economy improving, he expects that soon the city may gain another chain department store like Kohl’s or JC Penney.
He said with packaged liquor sales beginning soon, Murray will not only experience a growth in businesses through the addition of alcohol stores, but he also predicts the number of “sit-down” restaurants like Applebee’s and upper-level restaurants will rise.
As the representatives for their association of businesses, it is the Chamber of Commerce’s responsibility to not only offer services in marketing, programming and education, but also, to help draw in new prospective businesses. Allison said the fact that Murray is a college town is a big selling point.
Tim Todd, dean of the College of Business, agreed with Allison and said the University being in Murray is a significant factor regarding all economic development initiatives and quality of life areas.
“I believe when you look around at the individuals and organizations who ‘sell’ our community to potential new businesses and to overall new citizenry, our excellent university, our excellent public school systems and our excellent quality of life all go hand-in-hand as key ingredients,” Todd said.
He said the relationship between Murray State and the town is a mutually beneficial one; new businesses offer students new job opportunities, products and services, while students affect businesses with new clientele.
“Overall, this is a win-win especially with regard to the excellent Town & Gown relationship we have here at Murray State with the city of Murray,” Todd said, speaking on the addition of new businesses to Murray.
Todd, contrary to Allison, said he did not believe “going wet” will necessarily be a significant driver of new businesses.
Liquor stores and bars have until Oct. 10 to apply for licenses to sell packaged liquor, and as of last Friday, three new liquor stores coming to Murray have done so, along with the Big Apple, who applied for a retail drink bar license.
Cellar Door Wine and Spirits, University Wine and Spirits and Thoroughbred Spirits, three potential liquor stores, applied just two days after the earliest date they were able to. Another 10 requests have been made for licenses and are in the process of being approved.
Matt Mattingly, the City Administrator, said in the next two years he expects to see quite a bit of growth in the number of businesses in Murray. This is despite the current re-ordering and simplifying of purchasing of business licenses.
Mattingly said of the approximately 1,600 business licenses that Murray currently has, more than 25 percent of these businesses were required to have multiple licenses. The city is now working to arrange it so that businesses only have to buy one all-encompassing primary license.
Currently, a business like a gas station is required to buy a license for every pump, for cigarettes and for vending machines, thus they are responsible for multiple licenses even though they operate as only one business.
After the reclassification takes place, the number of business licenses will accordingly drop, but Mattingly predicts the actual number of businesses in Murray will grow.
While Murray stands to lose some money from the drop in license sales, the real money gained from businesses in the city is through the tax on businesses.
Murray is different from many other towns, in that Murray has a flat rate tax. As opposed to a net profit tax in other cities which would take a certain percent of a businesses’ profit, Murray gains one, unchanging fee.
Mattingly said since 2009, while losing some small businesses, Murray has managed to weather the storm of economic hardships and managed to maintain all industries and most businesses in general.
All three, Mattingly, Allison and Todd, said the number of businesses in Murray is growing and has been for the last two years.
The signs of Murray’s changing face can already be seen all over town, in the wooden skeletons of future buildings, demolished plots of land ready to be construction sites and in the empty windows of renovated shops waiting to be filled by new tenants.
By the time most students return to Murray from Winter Break, a great number of new businesses may already be here waiting for them.
Story by Ben Manhanke, Staff writer