The big wheel keeps on turning in the Rim country.
Last year, Payson's economy revved up: new businesses came to town, housing went through the roof and new construction kept the town growing.
Tina Bruess, executive director of Rim Country Regional Chamber of Commerce, knows the hustle and bustle in, out and around Payson better than just about anyone else.
Bruess knows tourism; she said visitors accounted for a large portion of the area's economic activity.
The chamber welcomed 22,650 visitors to its visitor center in 2004. Sixty-five percent of those tourists hailed from Arizona, the others came from all over the United States and as far away as Germany and the United Kingdom.
Bruess also noted a marked interest in the Rim country as a place to settle down. The chamber sent out 600 relocation packets, 520 tourist packets and produced 60,000 handouts for visitors.
The chamber teamed up with Payson Unified School District last year in support of the Arizona Academics Scholars program.
The program works to bolster Payson's future workforce. By partnering with area businesses and school volunteers, the program encourages students to complete challenging courses during high school. The goal of the program is to better prepare students for future careers and educational goals.
Scott Flake and the Payson Regional Economic Development Corporation have worked diligently over the past year to spread the word throughout Arizona and the Southwest -- Payson is a great place to do business.
"The group directs its energies at six focal points," Flake said. "Business recruitment, business retention and expansion, tourism and recreation, partnerships (generating and maintaining relationships), creating a climate conducive to business, and internal operations."
Flake wooed representatives from the healthcare and biotech fields in hopes of attracting more and higher paying jobs to the area.
PREDC also brought in consultants to continue work on developing the Payson Event Center. If constructed, the 36-acre hotel and conference center would be a coup for Rim country tourism and business opportunities.
The biggest triumph for Payson, of course, was Home Depot's decision to open a 104,866 square-foot facility and 36,643 square-foot garden center on Highway 87 and Houston Mesa Road. The new store brings more than 100 jobs to the Rim country.
Turn the pages of the 2005 Progress edition to learn about other signs of progress in the Rim country --n our schools, in our local economy, in our neighborhoods and in our everyday lives.