The retail community of Payson has always been segmented into geographical groups — Main Street, Swiss Village and the Wagon Wheel, just to name a few.
While some of these groups have functioned well, others, like the Green Valley Redevelopment Agency, have floundered and ultimately died. Business owners outside of these groups have had to make it on their own.
Hoping to bridge the gaps between the fragmented business communities, members of the town staff are hosting a free, business-wide meeting Nov. 9 to discuss big changes in the town’s economic development strategy.
Councilor Su Connell and Community Development Director Ray Erlandsen are spearheading the event. Mayor Kenny Evans will speak along with Tom Doyle, program manager with the Arizona Department of Commerce Rural Development Office. The event will be held from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. at the Rim Country Mall in the former Sears store.
“It doesn’t matter if they are resale, wholesale, service or commodity,” Connell said, we want them all to attend.
She explained after the council axed the Green Valley Redevelopment Agency in June, it brainstormed new ways to get a town-wide group started where businesses could help businesses.
Erlandsen said they wanted to take the Main Street program and expand it so it covered everyone, from the mom-and-pop shop on Main Street to the franchise owner in a strip mall.
The group they envisioned would have a board of directors and would work closely with the Town of Payson and Department of Commerce.
While the town will support the group, it will be entirely run by the business community, Connell said.
Getting business owners out of their functional silos and thinking big picture is the objective, she said.
“Our initial goal is to get all the business owners talking to each other,” Erlandsen said.
“In order for them to be successful, the whole town needs to be successful, so we can’t be fighting with each other.”
Erlandsen and Connell said they want to see the Main Street Merchants Guild and Wagon Wheel groups continue, and hope members of both groups can share how they got started and what has and has not worked.
Connell admitted there might be apprehensive business owners and those who question whether a town-wide group can work, but she is confident it will succeed.
Doyle, who has worked with other towns on similar groups, will present a range of options and directions for moving forward.
Showing the world that we have a strong business community is key, especially when ASU comes in a few years, Erlandsen said.
“When ASU happens, it is going to change the feel of the town,” Connell said.
“We need to have a community-wide business focus.”
Once the group is established, new business owners can meet with successful owners and learn from them. Existing owners could act as mentors to explain what their mistakes where and what obstacles they faced, Connell said.
“To know that there are people who have walked in those shoes and can help” is huge, she said.
The group could also work together to influence change in the community, such as to the town’s signage code.
“Imagination is their limit,” Erlandsen said.
“We won’t dictate to them at all what they can do,” Connell said.
Many details, such as who will run the group, how it will function and a budget, remain undecided. Learn more by attending the Nov. 9 program. Confirm attendance by calling (928) 474-5242, ext. 267.