Despite all its advances, when the recession hit Payson, its economy fell off the Rim.
Now town officials are hoping a new town-wide business group will figure out a way to rig the ropes back to economic prosperity in a new age of business-to-business cooperation.
On Tuesday, Nov. 9, the town sponsored a kickoff event for the new independent business group in the former Sears location. Payson Councilor Su Connell, Payson Mayor Kenny Evans and Community Development Director Ray Erlandsen spearheaded the event.
Connell said business owners should get out of their individual silos and work together for the common goal of economic prosperity for all.
When the recession hit the area, some businesses banded together like the Wagon Wheel Territory (a collection of merchants along the highways through town, each displaying a wagon wheel). Main Street merchants started First Friday and the Sawmill Crossing supported a farmers market in their parking lot.
While all these enterprises are great, town officials want to do more.
Connell said she envisions businesses helping businesses in this new group, with a goal of unifying all segments of town.
For too long, businesses have worked against each other.
“We need to collaborate more than compete,” Evans said to a large crowd of business owners at Tuesday’s meeting. “It means you have an interest in your neighbor.”
At the town level, Evans said they have worked hard to erase the stigma that Payson is an unfriendly business community.
Anytime a business shows interest, Evans, Mike Vogel or Town Manager Debra Galbraith make a point to show prospective clients around the town. At town hall, the staff works hard to make it easier, not harder, for businesses to get permits, licenses or plans.
“The final leg is learning how to get businesses to get along with other businesses,” he said.
Evans said he hopes business leaders will step up and lead this new organization, which will not be run by the town.
To give an idea of what this new group might look like, Thomas Doyle, business attraction and rural program manager for the Arizona Commerce Authority, outlined what other Arizona rural communities are doing.
Doyle pointed to Casa Grande, where an enthusiastic group cleaned up a blighted alley with murals to create a space for music, gatherings and a farmers market. In northeast Arizona, nine communities have banded together to create the Real Corridor.
“We are in the time of change,” Doyle said.
“We have to look at out-of-the-box ideas.”
In the Verde Valley, a wine consortium was created to promote the area’s wine industry.
In central Arizona, 11 communities joined to create the Ore Cart Trail. The idea is to get visitors to stop at each area’s mining monument.
“Towns are grouping into regions which makes the town look more attractive,” Doyle said.
Audience member John Wakelin said he would like to see Wagon Wheel, Main Street, Alpine Village and the north end of town work mutually, but wondered how they could be brought together.
Erlandsen said they do not want to get rid of existing groups; they want to create a new group with a larger focus.
“There is no limit to what you can do, but you have to get started somewhere,” he said.
Evans said he would like to see interested business members get together and hash out clear, qualitative goals and objectives for the new organization.
The group is open to business owners big and small from all areas of town.
If you would like to join the new group or learn more about it, call (928) 474-5242, ext. 267, and leave a message with your name and phone number by Nov. 23.
The town will contact you by Dec. 1 with the group’s next steps.