BSD board tables retail recruiter pact renewal
By David Hohendorf
The governing board of the Birmingham Shopping District (BSD) on Thursday, April 7, tabled renewal of a one-year contract with CC Consulting of Bloomfield Hills, represented by Cindy Ciura, which has been the retail recruiting firm since 2019, after objections to the contract terms were raised by Birmingham City Manger and BSD board member Tom Markus.
The contract with CC Consulting for bringing new businesses to fill storefront vacancies actually expired at the end of March and the Business Development Committee of the BSD had recommended the contract be extended by the board for another year with no change in terms or compensation.
Some alterations to the original 2019 pact have been made in past years, raising the base annual pay from $25,000 to the current level of $28,000, along with increasing the maximum annual bonus to be paid for signed leases for a total package of $75,000. There has been discussion in the past of possibly raising the maximum package annual amount beyond $75,000 after a bonus could not be paid for a signed lease in the last year without exceeding the annual limit on compensation.
A motion was made at the Thursday meeting to renew the contract without changes but during discussion the city manager raised a number of concerns.
Markus noted the contract did not specify that BSD Executive Director Sean Kammer would be the person directing the city's recruitment desires to the recruiter and that the recruitment firm would answer directly to Kammer, alluding to reported instances when the firm was communicating with members of the Business Development Committee and staff members of the BSD which he said has created “friction.”
Further, Markus suggested that the contract should also include a requirement that the retail consulting firm appear at BSD board meetings at least on a semi-annual basis and the firm should also supply written reports on recruitment efforts on a regular basis.
In addition, the city manager referenced the fact that the contract now includes a requirement that all business activity must comply with the city's ethics policy, following an incident when gift cards were supplied by Cindy Ciura to BSD staff members, which had to be returned to comply with the ethics policy.
Markus said the city and CC Consulting “need to have a sit-down” to improve communications and so that certain concerns could “be spelled out,” among them the fact that the BSD board is empowered to make decisions and not committee members, an issue he said he has recently addressed with committees of the Baldwin Birmingham Library organization.
The city manager also recommended that an analysis of retail and commercial tenants now underway by the BSD should be acknowledged in the recruiting firm contract so that it is understood that the city would be dictating the categories of retail business it was hoping to attract to the downtown area for a balanced business community that would attract shoppers.
Markus recommended that the contract renewal be tabled and the agreement reworked to address “flaws” while at the same time shortening the agreement to six months to allow the city administration time to develop a request for proposals (RFP) which could be issued before a new pact expires.
Board members entertained a motion and unanimously voted to table the contract renewal and have the agreement reworked to include the suggestions of the city manager. The revised contract would be considered at the next monthly meeting of the BSD board, which are held at The Community House at 8:30 a.m. on the second Wednesday of each month.