Payson Seeking Diverse Economy

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Payson got a welcome piece of good news this week, with word that the town helped High Precision Range (HPR) land a $300,000 grant from the Arizona Commerce Authority.

The grant will give needed support to the small, bustling bullet manufacturer’s plan to double its output with a $4 million upgrade.

Hopefully, that expansion will increase the number of jobs the bullet maker provides from the present 30 to 40 to a new total of 70 to 80, according to Payson’s Economic Development Director Mike Vogel.

The town demonstrated its new, business-friendly approach two years ago when town officials helped HPR cut through red tape as quickly as possible to set up shop in an empty warehouse building by the airport.

Now, Payson officials helped land the first Commerce Authority grant in the town’s history to help with HPR’s expansion.

Payson’s on the right track when it comes to economic development — although the shift in emphasis has so far delivered only modest returns. Hopefully, the Great Recession taught us all a lesson about building a diverse, healthy, financially stable community. We cannot ever again rely wholly on tourism and second-home construction. We must work actively to create a community that maintains a viable economic balance — part tourism, part building, part manufacturing, part education. We should work to fit the puzzle together carefully. That’s why the plan to build a university here along with spinoff businesses remains the key to our future — not just for the jobs and tax revenue, but for the mix of activities.

So we applaud the town’s persistent, albeit frustrating, effort to broaden the region’s economic base, with manufacturing firms and education-based industries.

And we hope that farsighted effort will outlast the downturn. All too often, government chases the elephant once it’s on a rampage rather than guiding it down the parade route. We see the sad reality played out at every level, whether it’s the federal government cutting the debt when we need stimulus and pulling out the credit card when we should be saving or the state government cutting education when we need to be upgrading the work force or the town government imposing building permit limits when it should be channeling growth to produce a well-rounded economy.

So, hopefully, the present wise emphasis on a diverse and balanced economy will survive the return of the next building boom.

Grief’s terrible lesson

The terrible grief provoked by the tragic death of Saige Bloom once more settled over Payson High School on Friday in the course of the school’s effort to reduce the toll of traffic accidents on our young people.

Saige died in January after the gas pedal of her vehicle stuck, sending her careening through town. She saved many lives by weaving through traffic without crashing into anyone else. At the last minute she rolled her car to avoid smashing into the back of a car filled with children — saving lives at the sacrifice of her own.

Then her grieving, shattered family did something else courageous: They agreed to donate the organs of their beloved daughter when they accepted the horrible necessity of letting her go. That decision saved the children of other families — including the heart donated to a dying, 13-year-old boy.

It also prompted 535 Payson High School students to sign cards authorizing organ donations in the event of their own deaths.

The counselors and administrators at the high school took another step toward extracting some good from so senseless a tragedy by honoring Saige and her family in the presentations during the Project Ignition assemblies on Friday.

That gave students an outlet for their deep grief at having lost so cruelly out of season a classmate so willing to bless others.

In the end, only such clear-eyed truth telling can cushion the blow of such a tragedy. The loss of so innocent and glad a soul makes no sense at all — and never shall. But we can still honor her by turning our terrible, frightened grief into action that will save other young lives.

So we weep once more for Saige and for her brave, stricken family. And we honor the determination of those who loved her and miss her to turn their grief into a means to prevent other such tragedies. Let us each reach out to other teens so they will develop life-saving habits when they get behind the wheel.

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