When Payson Town Council member Ray Schum looks down the Beeline Highway toward Phoenix, he sees business development and residential growth heading this way.
And when growth comes speeding toward town on that roomy, new, four-lane highway, which is expected to be complete this year, the town had better be prepared to steer it in the right direction, he said.
"How can we have anti-growth here?" he asked Wednesday. "When the Beeline Highway is complete, the anti-growth people here are going to get run over."
Schum, who was re-elected last week as president of the Payson Economic Development Corporation, said he's determined to woo high-paying manufacturing companies to Payson.
"If we have good, professional jobs and we have young people who can get into professions they can be proud of," he said, "they'll have more money to spend and they'll feel more comfortable about buying homes and raising families.
"The community will benefit because there will be more money rolling around to attract more businesses. Better shops and better restaurants will move to town, and the whole community will be more economically vibrant."
For every manufacturing job that is established here, two other jobs will be created in the community, Schum said, referring to a 1995 research study by Blane Canada Ltd. Recruiting new, high-paying businesses to town is key to Payson's future, he said.
"The old school used to say that manufacturing had to be on a major trade route -- highway, rail or shipping," said Schum, who is now in his second year as head of the PEDC and his fourth year as a Council member. "I don't think that's really valid anymore.
"But the competition is so keen for that kind of business, we can't just sit back. I think economic development is far more important than the treatment we've given it in the past."
This year, as president of the Economic Development Corporation, Schum said he plans to:
- Personally visit the heads of 10 manufacturing plants that expressed casual interest in Payson last year, to try to convince them to give Payson another look.
- Try to establish relationships with the new residents of Chaparral Pines and the Rim Club and encourage them to move their research and development operations to Payson.
- Try to recruit software and telemarketing companies to the Payson area.
- Encourage the heads of established manufacturing businesses to expand their operations.
Schum said his goal, which was established during a joint planning retreat last year for town and PEDC officials, is to boost the town's manufacturing development to 10 percent of the town's total business development this year.
Neither the town, nor the PEDC, however, are prepared to offer business owners or developers incentives to move here, he said.
"If you offer a business a tax break or something like that," he said, "they'll pick up and leave the moment someone offers them something else. I don't see why we should offer incentives.
"The town should help with things that the people will benefit from, such as an upgraded traffic light at Main Street and Beeline, off-street parking on Main Street, and new streets. Those are the things that the town should be helping with."
The PEDC, which had let its non-profit status lapse, was behind on its income tax returns, and was owed three delinquent loans last year, has begun to get its house back in order, Schum said. The corporation has reinstated its non-profit status and brought its income tax returns up-to-date.
Two businesses, however, still owe the corporation's revolving loan fund more than $30,000 in delinquent payments. The fund is used to help local business expand. That limits the amount of money the corporation has available to back business expansions and start-ups, he said.
"We will be very strict about who we loan money to in the future," Schum said. "But I'm confident that the PEDC, the (Rim Country Regional) Chamber of Commerce and the town are ready to work together to support good, solid development. And I'm ready to lead growth in the direction we want it to go."