Emergency Cash To Help Save Tourism Industry


Payson is facing an economic crisis. Tourism has ground to a halt.

That is the contention of Councilor Dick Wolfe, following a chamber-led summit on Payson's economy.

"With the drought and closing the forest, business is hurting and a short term solution is needed," he said at a special meeting of the council July 8.

Wolfe then proposed a $75,000 emergency appropriation to the Rim Country Regional Chamber of Commerce for an advertising campaign.

"It is an appropriate investment for us. Small business is hurting badly. The fire only added to the problems set in place by 9/11," Councilor Dick Reese said. He had also attended the economic summit.

"This is very important. Business is way down 60 to 75 percent in some cases," Mike Harper, chamber president, said. "With numbers like that, businesses just aren't going to last.

"We've shown the state and the world how we can rally around others in need. It is now time for the town to rally around its own businesses."

An informal survey by the chamber showed of the 22 lodging establishments contacted in Payson, Pine, Strawberry, Star Valley, Christopher Creek, Forest Lakes, Heber and Overgaard, 16 reported business was down, in some cases as much as 90 percent.

There were 12 restaurants contacted, and 10 reported that business was down an average of 30 percent.

Bob Ware, executive director of the chamber, presented the council with information highlighting the economic impact of tourism. He said Payson's largest business is tourism and its related businesses.

"Tourism (directly) contributes $43.5 million to the Gila County economy, generating $2.2 million in sales tax," Ware said.

He said studies show that 100 tourists a day in any given community make 144 jobs possible, 14 in transportation, 48 in retail, 49 in hotels and 33 in restaurants.

He said tourism generates $600 million in taxes for the state, which means every household has to pay $300 less a year in taxes.

"We don't frequent our own businesses enough to keep them afloat. We need to get a bigger piece of the tourism pie," Ware said. "Quite a few businesses are ready to fail."

He related the story where a tourist presented a $100 bill to a merchant in one of the outlying communities and there was not enough cash in the entire business to make enough change for it.

Ware said the $75,000 being sought will purchase advertising space in a number of publications, plus time on popular Valley radio stations during "drive time" when the stations have the most listeners.

"All expenditures will be highly documented and the production of the advertising will be done locally as much as possible. $75,000 is minuscule compared to the good it will do our businesses," Ware said.

A number of residents also spoke in favor of the appropriation.

"It is the perfect time for government to take quick action with tax dollars and put a bandage on this," local businessman Steve Johnson said.

The town council approved the emergency appropriation in a 7-0 vote.

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