They call it "leakage."
That's the term economists give to the slow drip of money from Payson to Phoenix. Money that could be spent here, too often flows downhill to the Valley.
It's a problem that most rural communities face -- especially with the advent of Internet shopping. The needs that were once supplied by the local general store can now be filled for less at the outlet mall, an hour away.
But every time you buy into another town's economy by buying into the idea that you can't get it here, you are the source of a "leak."
In front of the Rim Country Regional Chamber of Commerce, there's a sign that reads, "Be loyal, buy local. Shop Rim Country."
It's the last thing most of us see before we leave town with our shopping lists, but how often has that sign stopped you from driving another 75 miles? We would guess, never.
For many, it's a habit that comes from years of living in a small town. But there has been a proliferation of small, specialty retail shops in the Rim Country.
If you take a moment to pause before you leave town, you can probably find what you need right here. It might be cheaper in the Valley, but if you factor in the cost of rising gas prices and the value of your time, that may no longer be the case.
The Payson Regional Economic Development Corporation is in the final stages of a study about leakage from our area. The data are currently being analyzed at Arizona State University and the results should be available to the public in the next couple of weeks.
This study will include numbers of people who are driving to other places to shop, as well as those who shop on the Internet.
"Leakage" is important to Payson because the town relies heavily on sales tax revenues for the operation of this town. Of the sales tax we pay, 2 percent goes back to the Town of Payson and into the general fund. Last year, the town collected $7 million in sales tax, compared to only half a million dollars in property tax -- the rest of the property tax collected goes to Gila County and schools.
Sales tax revenue is used to fund police, fire, the parks department, streets and all other functions of our town government.
This week, as we prepare for the Rim Country Business Showcase, it's the perfect time to mentally catalog our retail landscape and make a commitment to the local economy.
The 15th annual Business Showcase will be held from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday in the Tonto Apache Gym.
The theme this year is Business is Hoppin'. The gym will be full of local business owners dressed in '50s attire.
There is no admission charge and businesses are not allowed to sell anything at their booths. It's just a chance to browse all the products and services available in this area.
It's also a chance to ask questions and have conversations with business owners.
The Payson Roundup will have a booth in the lobby of the Showcase. Stop by and talk to editor Autumn Phillips or meet our new publisher, John Naughton.
For more information about the event, call the Chamber at (928) 474-4515.