No, the City of Brownwood did not pay $400,000 to force the local Kroger out of business

Several local residents are questioning Brownwood’s economic development policies on social media after a report posted by the satire site, The Brownwood Examiner, accused the city of paying $400,000 in incentives to bring United and Aldi to town to directly compete with Kroger.

While the city did spend nearly $400,000 through infrastructure improvements and land and fill dirt donations to aid in the construction of the United Supermarket, Brownwood officials say that the city first approached Kroger with an offer to aid in construction of a Signature store.

Following through on a campaign promise of retail development, Brownwood Mayor Stephen Haynes led the Retail Advisory Council, a coalition consisting of the Brownwood City Council, the Brownwood Economic Development Corporation and the Brownwood Area Chamber of Commerce, to contract with the Retail Coach, a retail consulting firm that conducts market research, then connects cities with potential retailers.

Research provided by the retail coach revealed that a large segment of the local population was of retirement age, and that many local residents traveled out of town to purchase groceries, meaning that there was a gap in the grocery market for another major grocery store.

In a Facebook response to the Examiner’s post, Mayor Stephen Haynes said:

Actually, when the Retail Coach identified grocery markets as a need, I asked them for a contact with Kroger. They supplied one and I contacted the company. I told Kroger we would be interested in helping them update or replace the store. Kroger’s representative politely declined saying that Kroger’s only interest in our market was adding a fuel station. These communications occurred before anyone reached out to United.

After Kroger declined the invitation, city promoters began reaching out to major grocery chains, including H-E-B and Target. At that time, most were only interested in developing new locations along the I-35 Corridor in Central Texas.

Contact was later made with United, which resulted in the agreement to open a United Supermarket in Brownwood, contingent on the infrastructure improvements.