A meeting Thursday morning between town officials, a Phoenix businessman and a three-member board appointed by Gov. Jane Hull, brought Payson one step closer to future development and more jobs, according to Town Council member Ray Schum.
Schum was one of those at the meeting along with Town Manager Rich Underkofler, Rim Country Chamber of Commerce Director Tom Kaleta and Phoenix Logistics owner Ray Bellefeuille.
Schum returned from the meeting at the State Land Office in Phoenix and talked about how the decision by the settlement conference to sell 13.5 acres near the airport will affect other businesses considering relocating to Payson.
"It opens the door to other businesses," Schum said. "Others will follow suit."
But Bellefeuille said Thursday that he is not as optimistic about the state's decision to sell rather than lease the property because the conference board raised the price on the land to $45,000 an acre, some $5,000 more an acre than the Phoenix Logistics owner is prepared to pay.
"We were willing to squeeze up to $40,000," he said. "We have not decided to bid on this yet."
Phoenix Logistics Inc. supplies high frequency interconnects, components and subsystems for military aerospace electronic programs and provides materials for both manned and unmanned space programs.
The company currently employs 44 people with an average salary of $30,000 a year and anticipates a 200 percent growth in its employment in five years.
Bellefeuille has said that he hopes to expand to Payson and construct 100,000 square feet of industrial space and invest $9 million in the buildings in five years. He has predicted an annual Payson payroll of $5 million within five years.
His plans hit a snag when the State Land Office initially declined to put the 13.5 acres of airport-area land he wants for his facility up for sale. He appealed and had the earlier decision reversed Thursday, but he credits Schum, Underkofler and Kaleta with the victory.
The board's decision Thursday goes against the State Land Office's policy to lease rather than sell state land to commercial buyers, a policy that was upheld during previous discussions.
The conference decision was a first, said Schum. He said he believed an exception was made in Payson's case because the former commissioner, Dennis Wells, had made a commitment to sell the land to the Phoenix aerospace industry business.
The decision comes on the heels of the town's successful bid Tuesday in Globe to purchase 26 acres north of the 13 acres.
Schum said the town was the lone bidder for the property and will buy the state land at $40,000 an acre using ADOT grant money.
The 26 acres will be used for future airport expansion.
The auction for the 13.5 acres of state land south of the town's property will be held in about three or four months. The sale must first be advertised and will be open to all bidders.
"They justified selling it by raising the price," Schum said. "They agreed to sell it at a premium price. This could be a big day for Payson if this turns out."
Schum said Bellefeuille made a decent presentation on his interest in moving his business to Payson. "You can bet your bottom dollar we'll all be behind it."
But Bellefeuille said he isn't about to bet his bottom dollar on such a move.
"They've done what's necessary to hold the auction open," he said. "The price of the land seems to go up faster than our company is growing. If the auction were held today, we would not bid. It is beyond our limits."
Bellefeuille said he knows that the state has to do things to its benefit. "And that's OK," he said.
If the plan to build Phoenix Logistics in Payson doesn't pan out, Bellefeuille said he will look at other alternatives that may even include moving out of state.
"But who knows," he said, "If it's to be, it will happen in spite of me."