Finally, the light is glimmering through the economic thunderhead for a storm-weary Rim Country.
Payson’s Economic Development Coordinator Mike Vogel reported at last week’s council meeting that the town is in “serious negotiation” with perhaps 18 businesses, who want to open offices or stores or production facilities in Payson.
That adds encouraging sales tax figures — and the first sign of life in nearly two years when it comes to issuing building permits.
Beaten and battered optimists hope that this is the start of the upswing, they’ve so earnestly sought all this while.
We applaud the town’s patient, persistent effort to lure the right mix of businesses to town — and to position the region to capitalize on the upturn when it finally hits.
Town officials figure that the new businesses that have set up shop here in the past year or so have provided perhaps 130 jobs locally.
Now, that’s not nearly enough jobs to replace what we lost when the housing market collapsed, pulling the tourism and construction industry down with it.
We know that so many of our friends and neighbors who have been hanging on to the frayed ends of their economic rope until their hands bleed — so every one of those jobs remains precious.
Of course, we’ve hardly broken through into the sunshine.
The ongoing state budget meltdown and the first frightening signs that the Legislature may balance its budget by dismantling the universities has cast a new shadow over Payson’s plans to lure an ASU campus to town. Losing ASU would deliver a terrible blow to the town’s long-term plans. The university itself would add hundreds of good, year-round jobs to our economic base — and the hotels, manufacturers, apartment builders and retailers drawn to town by the promise of ASU would add hundreds more.
But the recent uptick has nothing to do with ASU and so we continue to find grounds for encouragement.
So we hope lots of residents and business owners will make time for today’s 3 p.m. meeting at the old Sears store in the Bashas’ shopping center, where town officials hope to update residents on their economic development efforts and gather feedback on how to make this town more business-friendly.
The toll of the recession has administered a rough lesson in the need for a stable, healthy job base in Rim Country — one not so terribly dependent on tourists and second-home buyers. Fortunately, it seems that the town’s leaders have taken the lesson to heart.
Of course, if the economy recovers and growth resumes here, we will find ourselves confronted by that same dichotomy that emerged the last time building boomed. Obviously, most of us love the Rim Country for its scenery, peace, pace and small-town feel. We fear we’ll lose the very thing we love, grabbing for the seductive illusion of “progress.”
But that’s a debate for the future.
Right now, we just need to find some shelter from the rain — and a place safe from the next lightning strike
Veterans Day beckons
What a treasure we have in Rim Country.
That much was made plain to anyone lucky enough to be among the 200 who attended the Marine Corps 235th Birthday Bash at the Mazatzal Casino on Saturday.
The festivities came just in time for us to urge you all to attend one or all of the Veterans Day celebrations planned in Rim Country on Thursday — especially those held at the War Memorial in Green Valley Park.
The Rim Country is blessed with a great wealth of veterans, who have retired here after serving their country.
Some of them were recognized on Saturday. That includes men like Tobe Cogswell who won the silver Star on Guadalcanal when he led a squad whose refusal to give ground resulted in dreadful hand-to-hand combat. Larry Norton also attended, recalling the day on Iwo Jima when he helped plant the flag on the mountaintop that became the Marine Corps very symbol. They were in the company of men who performed heroically in South Korea, in Vietnam, in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Such men and women have always answered the call of their country — and protected all that we have at an often fatal price.
Most of us stayed home, through inclination and circumstance. We have all enjoyed the results of their service — even if we did not pay the price.
But we can turn out on Thursday, giving thanks and paying our respects by our silent presence.