Community Drafts Future Development Plans

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Approval of the town's new general plan is only weeks old, and now community members are drafting a guide for future economic development.

"We're about a quarter of the way through the process of updating the 1995 plan," said Peggy Fiandaca, explaining the work, "It is a blueprint for economic development."

Fiandaca is a consultant with Partners for Strategic Action, Inc., a firm hired by Arizona Public Service to help with its Focused Future II project.

Payson is participating in the project because of its tremendous growth since the 1995 economic development plan was drafted.

APS sponsors the project, which is also taking place in Casa Grande, Cottonwood, Douglas, Goodyear, Prescott Valley and Surprise.

Fiandaca coordinated activities at a special Sept. 19 meeting for approximately 100 Payson residents, called together for the "Payson Future Search Conference" to review and discuss the work on the economic development plan.

This work has been done by about 30 Payson residents, the

Action Team. It started work in January.

Areas examined by the team for economic development roles were: education, manufacturing, technology, health care, tourism and retailers.

Over the course of the last eight months, through a series of meetings, the team has defined economic development and community values for Payson.

According to the report prepared by the team for a Sept. 19 meeting on the project, "Economic development is the activity that creates new sources of revenue and allows for the internal exchange of revenues that expand the tax base, resulting in an improved quality of life for all residents."

The top community values identified are:

  • Care about each other as a community
  • Heritage of the area
  • Surrounding forest setting
  • Excellent schools
  • Safe community
  • Climate

A vision statement for the community evolved from the discussions. As explained in the Action Team's report, the vision is the community's philosophy and unique image of the future that would be better in some ways than what now exists. It's a future statement; a description of the desired future state for the community.

The team adopted the following vision statement: "Payson is a well-planned community that serves as a vibrant regional center attracting people of all ages to the area for services, commercial, recreational activities, and the quality of life. The community provides a full range of housing lifestyles and has an outstanding educational system that supports the needs of the community. Payson has successfully balanced growth and economic development while retaining its small town quality of life. As a community, we value: our rich heritage, beautiful forest setting, quality education, safety. We are proud to call Payson home and our children are able to live, work, play and stay to raise their families."

Also coming from the meetings during 2003 is the identification of "areas that could provide the framework for the Focused Future II Strategic Plan for Economic Development. These Focus Areas are intended to move toward the implementation of Payson's vision: building a strong community, business development, tourism attraction and retention, quality education and work force development."

The focus areas were the basis for discussions by participants in the Sept. 19 meeting.

In a series of small group sessions, the focus areas were further defined and specific goals attached to them. Additionally, the participants were asked to identify the things that would indicate successful progress toward the goals. The consulting facilitators will take the information from the meeting back to the Action Team. It will provide direction in developing a plan that delineates how Payson will strengthen its economic position and improve its quality of life.

Focused Future participants impressed

Participants in the Focused Future II community meeting Sept. 19 came away with varying impressions.

Su Connell, director of the Rim Country Literacy Program, said, "I was not disappointed. The methodology was outstanding. I was impressed by the flow of ideas and exchange of information."

She said she was not sure what she was expecting from the meeting, so she did not have any preconceived notions.

"It was an open and honest dialog and a marvelous exchange of ideas. It was very energizing," Connell said, "I came away with the knowledge we have a lot of wonderful ideas and a lot of things need action. We ran out of time. There was no accountability strategy. I'd hate to lose the dynamic interaction. It's one of the few times I've seen this kind of energized gathering, where so many people were willing to work together."

Don Heizer, a counselor at Payson High School, participated in a couple of the early meetings of the group. Still, he said he didn't know exactly what to expect at the Sept. 19 meeting.

"I was pleased with the focus areas. All are critical to the development of Payson into the next century. The economic development is going to be tied to education. The quality of the work force we are able to develop is critical to attracting businesses that will stimulate the economy and not compromise the lifestyle and conditions here."

Heizer said, "I left with a real sense of hope the community can unite and move in a single-minded direction rather than being fractured. Economic development will lead to social development and the lifestyle people want to enjoy in the Rim country. I left really feeling we can develop a direction and vision for the future. If we're successful in communicating these to the community and the rest of the state, these efforts will lead to the fruits of the future."

Jan Parsons, regional manager for APS, has participated in the Focused Future II project since it started, serving on the Action Team that is developing the plan for coming economic development

Speaking about her expectations coming into the Sept. 19 meeting, she said, "Initially, our major objectives were to translate our vision into quantifiable and meaningful measures of economic progress, quality of life or sustainability indicators; to be more disciplined about understanding trends and issues; and to create new models for positive broad-based citizen and stakeholder participation in order to find ways to strengthen Payson's economy."

Following the meeting, she said, "I think our future search conference, which engaged 70 community members, was well attended and put us on the road to achieving these objectives. I was quite impressed with the number of people that showed up. The session was well attended, people were well prepared and they stayed to the end of the session. There were new faces and a lot of interaction. That gives me hope that maybe the vail of apathy is lifting. Secondly, I was impressed with our diverse group's ability to interact and come to consensus."

As a member of the Action Team and part of APS, which is sponsoring the project, Parsons was asked what happens now.

"Our next step is to have our team meet and examine the feedback. This will occur on Oct. 23. The team will review outcomes, discuss and finalize our success indicators. As a result, some of these outcomes and indicators will need to be incorporated in our economic development plan, some into our town plan and yet others with the citizenry. We can plan until we turn blue in the face, but until we execute -- in a disciplined way -- and get things done, the planning process is ineffectual," she said.

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