Payson’s efforts to lure new businesses to town in the past year have produced about 130 new jobs, the town’s part-time economic development coordinator Mike Vogel reported to the town council last week.
In addition, the town remains in “serious discussion” with at least 18 other firms considering a move to Payson, said Vogel.
“Even if we have 18 or 19 serious inquiries, that doesn’t mean they’ll all meet our requirement — or that we’ll meet theirs,” said Vogel.
One of those new businesses is a target shooting ammunition manufacturer that has a payroll of about 30 workers and has grown quickly into the nation’s third-largest target ammunition supplier, with sales focused on police departments. A True Value hardware and lumber outlet has also just opened.
Projects still in the works include a new Outback Steakhouse and talks with the Chinese government about building a solar cell assembly plant in Payson.
Payson Mayor Kenny Evans said the town’s recruitment efforts provide a chance to provide jobs for hard-working local people who have been hanging on by their fingernails.
“You have heads of households who have always worked and who were really in desperate need” of a job. “So now they have a sense of purpose and hope they didn’t have before.”
Councilor Su Connell said the town hopes to build on that momentum and enlist other businesses in the effort to promote Payson and make town government more business-friendly. Town officials will host a community forum for businesses today from 3 to 6 p.m. at the old Sears building in the Bashas’ shopping center complex.
That meeting will feature guest speaker Tom Doyle and explanations about what the town has been doing to attract new businesses to empty storefronts and make the town more business-friendly.
Vogel said the town has actively recruited businesses that seem like they would fit snugly into Rim Country’s business community.
Evans noted, “instead of waiting for people to knock on the door, we’re soliciting the kind of business that would be good community partners.”
He noted that normally community development recruitment efforts draw serious interest from perhaps 5 percent of the people they contact and ultimately strike a deal with perhaps 1 percent. However, the town has spurred serious interest in relocating from nearly 10 percent of the roughly 200 companies they’ve contacted.
Instead of making businesses go through a confusing and fragmented process to line up all their permits, “we sit down and say ‘let’s figure out how to get this done.’”
Vogel said that after nearly two years of falling retail sales and rising retail store vacancy rates, the Rim Country’s economy is finally improving.
“We know we’ve turned that corner. Everything we’ve done in the past year is starting to pay off.”