by Jim Keyworth
roundup staff reporter
The golf ball manufacturing company that's coming to Payson got into the business when Ping Golf Clubs decided to stop making balls.
Bobby Russo, president of Phoenix Golf Ball Company, was a good friend of the late Karsten Solheim, legendary Ping founder.
"Karsten taught me how to make golf balls," he said. "Ping is the world's largest golf club manufacturer ... but they decided to get out of the golf ball business."
Because they did, 20 new jobs are coming to Payson, once the company builds a 20,000-square-foot facility at Sky Park Industrial Park west of the airport. The Payson Town Council agreed in principle to sell five lots, a combined 2.04 acres, to Phoenix Golf Ball Thursday night.
As part of the agreement, the company will employ at least 20 people and be in operation within one year. Selling price is $159,000.
"As soon as we wrap up the deal with the town, we will put up our building," Russo said.
While broker Bob McQueen said the town is selling the lots for about half of their appraised value, all of its costs are being covered.
"The town gets its money back, and any difference between that and ... market value will be made up many times over with the economic impact," McQueen said.
The average starting salary for regular employees will be $9 per hour plus full health insurance, with supervisory personnel earning considerably more.
The cores of the golf balls manufactured by Phoenix Golf Ball will be made at the new Payson facility.
"It's the least involved part of the process," Russo said. "The rubber comes in already mixed and blended."
Phoenix Golf Ball is about to introduce a major ball line called Phoenix Tour. The company also manufactures custom balls with logos for companies like Disney.
The company will maintain its facility in Mesa, where ball cores will be shipped from Payson to have the outer coating applied.
Because cooling a large facility is much simpler in Payson than in the Valley, water consumption will also be minimal.
"In the Valley we have a cooling tower that uses 11,000-30,000 gallons of water," Russo said. "In Payson, we'll have an air-cooled chiller with a closed loop system. The water we use will be equivalent to about five homes."