Retail Vital To Payson Economy

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Payson has a diverse economy and the sounds of local industry are as muffled as the ringing of a cash register at any one of the town's retail stores.

In December, the Payson Roundup explored the influence of the construction industry on the economy of Payson. At the time, officials attributed one-fifth, or nearly 19 percent, of all sales taxes collected by the town to the construction industry.

But what about the other 81 percent?

"Payson has a little of everything, but not a lot of one thing," said Barbara Ganz, interim director of the Payson Regional Economic Development Corporation.

The monthly report on sales tax collections from the Arizona Department of Revenue shows the diversity of the Payson economy. Out of the 15 possible sources of sales tax, Payson receives funds from all but three areas -- mining, transportation/warehousing, and public administration.

The state report shows the top source of sales tax in Payson is retail trade, with $1.8 million generated between January and November of 2005 (December figures were not available at press time).

Town Manager Fred Carpenter said the tourism trade plays a part in the retail numbers.

"Look at the Wal-Mart parking lot on a Friday afternoon in the summer," he said. "You can't hardly find a parking place. I think a lot of folks down in Phoenix, where it's 110 degrees, decide to come up here and don't want to shop in that heat, so (they) stop and get what they need (for a camping trip) here."

Carpenter maintains that tourism is a strong economic engine for the town, as does Rim Country Regional Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Tina Bruess, who cites the casino as a major contributor. Though the casino does not contribute sales tax revenue, its existence creates jobs, salaries and services for the people of Payson.

"Tourism has a huge impact," Carpenter said. "There is the Tonto Natural Bridge and the museums. We are becoming more of a destination. Look at the number of people that come to town for the car show and the bike race -- the more events the better. The corporate strategic plan calls for three more major events to be added."

Ganz agreed that tourism is important to the community's economy.

"Tourism is a vital factor," she said. "The events are a big part of the tourist industry, even with our little electric light parade, people come up from the Valley to see it, stay overnight, eat and go shopping." Ganz believes the replica of the Zane Grey Cabin will add to the community's appeal as a destination, especially because it is one of three museums located near one another.

Salaries created by the tourist industry are just as important a component to the vitality of Payson as the retail sales dollars it generates.

According to Judy Miller, director of the Small Business Development Office at Gila Community College, every dollar in a salary turns around seven times.

Additionally, the state shares a portion of the income taxes it collects with the towns, based on population. Glenn Smith, chief financial officer for Payson, said for 2004-2005, the town's share of the state's income tax was $1.25 million, and he is projecting that amount to rise to $1.425 for fiscal year 2005-2006. Smith explained there is a two-year lag between the actual collection of the taxes and distribution to municipalities.

Other taxes coming into the town coffers from the state include state-shared sales tax revenue ($1.2 million for 2004-2005), highway users tax revenue and the town's share of the fuel taxes collected by the state ($1.7 for 2004-2005). This money can only be used for construction and maintenance of streets and highways, Smith said.

The top-10 generators of sales tax (from January to November 2005) are:

1. Retail trade: $1.8 million

2. Construction: $615,098

3. Restaurant and Bar (food service): $322,259

4. Communications and Utilities: $290,402

5. Accommodations: $182,207

6. Real Estate, Rental and Leasing: $152,770

7. Manufacturing: $81,150

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Barbara Ganz, interim director of the Payson Regional Economic Development Corporation

8. Other (Businesses that are too small for separate categories): $73,175

9. Services: $68,210

10. Wholesale trade: $51,661

"I think people would be surprised by the amount of light manufacturing we have," said Ganz. "It is surprising in numbers and the significant amount of money (it generates)."

Ganz is organizing two conferences on economic impact. The first, which will address the issues of water and land, will be held from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday at the Payson Public Library. The second will focus on the community's health-care industry, education system and forest health issues. The second conference will be held from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 28, also at the library. To attend, make reservations by calling (928) 468-6659.

Ganz is concerned about the perception that the town is growing too fast.

"If a community doesn't grow, it dies. Zero growth will be very harmful," she said.

Her suggestion is for the community's leaders is to be focused, thoughtful and strategic about the businesses they want to attract to the area.

"We need to build an economy that reflects this community," she said.

PREDC Workshops

The Payson Regional Economic Development Corporation will host two workshops on economic impact

Focus: Water and Land

When: 3 to 5 p.m. Wednesday

Where: Payson Public Library

Cost: Free

Call: RSVP to (928) 468-6659

Focus: Payson's health care industry, education system and forest health issues

When: 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 28

Where: Payson Public Library

Cost: Free

Call: RSVP to (928) 468-6659

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