As Much As Things Change, They Stay The Same!



Payson is not Sedona and hopefully its leadershipill realize that Payson's culture, heritage and potential as a tourism destination are quite different and deserve to be developed in its own unique way.

An acuteack of vision,oupled with a lack of resources and most especially a lack of professional leadership, is at the root of the tourism problem. This is further exasperated by the age-old problems that befall all small towns that have a potential to grow their tourism-basedconomy; the old-timers want change, providing it doesn't affect their own lives, but increases the size of their wallet, the newcomers have just found their piece of heaven and see no reason to change anything and then we arrive are the real problem.

Younger people see it as a chance to get a better job with benefits, but even that is a double-edged sword, the cost of their housing, food and entertainment will also increase as more people enter the town's economy.

The business community needs growth and that comes from new customers, but, even the thought of a bypass to relieve "traffic" is a real threat because, in effect, their customers bypass their stores and the problem of parking requires both government help and private enterprise.

The town government doesn't want to lose any control, even though the elected members can't even agree onow to definerowth and how it should be managed.

The town manager, other bureaucrats within the town and county government all want their control and their hand-picked people to be in charge and it is a safe bet that few, if any of these people, have any real professional tourism experience or basic knowledge of what is required to build a tourism economy.

Finally, there are the special interest groups, led by the rodeo community, who see everything through the prism of the cowboy birthright, there is also the full and part-time residents of the two golf country clubs who, for the most part, came to Payson to get away from the hustle and bustle and tourism can be a threat to the good life in the way of traffic and congestion and crime. Other players in theffort to grow tourism in Payson are the various police organizations and the medical community, who will certainly besked to increase their services and that requires staff and budget increases.

Another very key player in this tourism equation is the Rim Country Regional Chamber of Commerce.Ideally, this organization, with the strong support of the business community, should act as the coordinating organization, providing that their leadership is both professional and has a strong relationship with the state, county and town governments and that most certainly includes the Tonto Apache Tribe leadership.

Unless things have changed, the Tontopaches have contributed more to theevelopment of tourism and the education and sports development than any other single entity and must be an equal partner in any tourism development plan.

So where is the problem, the elected Payson Town Government changes frequently and each elected member has their own ideas and pet projects that they promised those who supported them.
It is relatively certain that while these elected officials have some degree of business expertise, it is highly unlikely that this includes professional experience in developing tourism or building relationships with the government and private enterprise "players." The Chamber has an "elected" BOD but like most non-professional, unpaid volunteer boards these people may be well-intentioned, but also come with their own baggage and promises, and forming a cohesive and cooperativeorum from each of these independentntities is difficult at best.It has been said that managing a all-volunteer BOD is like herding cats, the best one can hope for an occasional success.

It is extremely easy to spill tens of thousands of dollars trying to develop a tourism destination. This fact of life is magnified when one deals with too many special interest groups that, through no fault of their own, just can't see the big picture.

What is the real dollars and cents potential of Main Street, what is the impact of the Special Event Center and what is the net revenue that the town government, the Tonto Apaches and the business community generates from a few rodeos, as opposed to promoting other venues that may have greater financial long-term impact?

There appears to be a growing appeal that suggests good tourism potential from the arts community and how can that be grown and what nearby communities in a 90-minute drive have competing events?

In my opinion, first appoint a committee that includes government (town and county), business community, chamber, church, rodeo, other nonprofits, including higher education, being absolutely certain that no one entity has a majority and negotiate to formulate a vision statement that will serve as the working plan to develop the tourism potential for the Town of Payson.

Once a workable plan is voted into existence, hire professionals to implement the plan, including concept, costs, traffic congestion, drawings and hard numbers that can be verified to justify any expense. This should also include any studies that will help verify potential from similar projects and also serve to identify potential down-sides that may have been experienced in other communities.
Sedona has been successful because they identified their own best potential, they made most of the right decisions andhey also realized that you can't make scrambled eggs without breaking a few eggs, but they stilltrived to build a consensus andooperation.
Well-intentioned amateurs can accomplished a great deal on occasion, but when you develop a plan based on a consensusnd hire professionals to implement your plan and it is critical that the community maintains a timely oversight, your chancefuccess to achieve a dream of developingayson as an enhancedourismestination has a greater possibility of success.

Thomas C. Kaleta

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