Each candidate was asked to provide approximately 125 words on the issue of the economy:
Jon Barber: Payson's economy currently is dependent on new construction (growth) and the service industry. If growth were stopped or significantly slowed without other businesses to replace it, our economy would be in turmoil. New taxes would have to be implemented to replace the sales tax that we currently collect from new construction. That's not a viable option for me. We need new small businesses to diversify our economy. Right now the four entities charged with bringing new businesses to town haven't been able to produce appreciable results. We have to change directions and look for better ways to attract the kind of businesses that will complement our community. We want to preserve our quality of life (clean, quiet) in the process. This issue is a challenge!
Barbara Brewer: Right now our economy is going pretty well. We can't afford for it to slow down too much though. The little mom and pop businesses struggle through the winter months anyway. We need to be positive when encouraging tourism and some conferences here, even though we don't have many meeting places yet. Our focus should be on developing the Arizona Cowboy Hall of Fame and some of the other amenities that we have that would attract tourists.
Bob Edwards: Some givens: Payson's economic engines are tourism, retirement and construction. Tourism and construction vary with the area's economy while retirement is stable. Payson's desirability as a destination community drives up home prices, creating an affordable housing problem. Payson lacks a diverse middle-age professional population. Where do we head? Given the fact the majority of people in Payson want it to remain a quiet clean town, we should continue to sell our tourism and return to the successful festivals of the past, continue to attract retirees and look for clean, young, professional companies. In addition we must deal with the difficult problem of affordable housing with government guidance but not direct government financial participation.
Ed Blair: Our economy is driven by tourism and the spending by the citizens of an area that includes our neighbors to the north, east and south. A number of retirees bring "nest-eggs" and steady pensions from their previous employment. It would be wonderful to attract new employees through businesses and industries that don't use large amounts of resources. Unfortunately I've heard that the cost of housing has discouraged some employers as well as workers from locating here. Housing for the employees is a major consideration in our economy, and we must develop and implement strategies that will encourage developers to build houses in a more affordable price range.
Su Connell: Payson's economy is mostly driven by fluctuating tourism. We need to do more publicizing of events, and our four-seasons outdoor recreational advantages, to increase tourism. The 36-acre event center can offer multiple opportunities for fairs, unique sales, and multiple rodeo/Western theme events. I will work with the town government to ensure that Payson residents have a direct say-so in regard to scheduling and prioritizing of special events to be held at the event center. The Main Street area and the town corridors need to embrace the Western heritage theme and provide a wide variety of eating, entertainment, and shopping. Attracting new businesses, as mentioned above, will greatly enhance our economy in a more permanent and long-term manner.
Rick Croy: Tourism is a very important element of our economy as it provides sales tax revenue. I support a buy-local policy, however local vendors must be competitive. All town purchases should be negotiated as much as possible to support a buy-local policy. Main Street policy needs reviewing and a major commitment needs to be made by the merchants in the area. A Main Street plan has to be fair to the tax-paying public.
Robert Henley: Our economy needs to become more diverse. Today new construction directly generates almost 20 percent of our sales tax revenue. That is significant and if we have a major downturn in construction, for whatever reason, we must be prepared to either replace that revenue through other sources or reduce our projected budget revenues and expenditures to compensate for that shortfall. I have supported and promoted the hotel, convention center and covered multi-event center development. This has the potential to augment the town's revenues by bringing in convention business that will spend money at our other motels, restaurants and retail shops. I want to continue to serve you on the council in order to see this project through to its completion.
Diane Sexton: The budget of each town department needs to be looked at with a "fine-tooth comb" and be approached as if each department would be beginning at a zero base. As we all know, there is "fat" in all budgets. This "fat," or extra money, could be directed toward improving our streets. I am against raising taxes on private residences and small businesses. For additional revenue, my vision is to develop Payson as a destination for tourists. Residents and visitors practicing "watchable wildlife" tourism spend more than $800 million a year in Arizona, for an overall economic impact of $1.5 billion, according to a study by the Arizona Game and Fish Department. Also, they report that Arizona is among the top birding places in the world. Payson's possibilities are endless, such as a drive-through wildlife park as in Rapid City, S.D. In Cody, Wyo., a seasonal museum of several acres brings in millions of dollars of revenue to their small community. A similar museum in our town could feature the history of the Rim Country and our local tribe.
Charlie Smith: The dictionary defines economy as "careful, thrifty management of resources, such as money, materials, or labor". Fiscal responsibility is a must in our community. We cannot have expenditures greater than our revenue. The growth in business and industry is needed to keep the sales tax where it currently is and prevent it from being raised, as it has in other small rural communities, to 10 percent. The completion of the event center will bring in revenue from use permits and fees. Payson needs this revenue to continue to provide those services that are expected by the residents.
Barbara Underwood: We need to diversify our economic base. In order to build a strong economy I would like to see more clean industry brought to our community. We need to seek those small companies that provide better employment opportunities for our citizens through higher wages. I understand that we may need to offer incentives to bring such industry. I am not opposed to considering possible tax breaks and building permit breaks. I am of the opinion that it is an investment in the future economic health of the community, a long-term investment that will pay dividends in keeping sales taxes stable, maintaining or increasing current services, repairing roads, and offering a larger variety and higher quality of education at all levels.
Mike Vogel: The future of our town cannot remain dependent upon revenue received from new housing construction. We must start looking for a new way of getting firms to locate in Payson. We may have to find individuals that locate firms who are looking to move their base of operations. Hopefully, they will be companies that have low water use, but also will provide well-paying jobs. What we are doing now is not working.