When you’re becalmed in your dingy, far from shore, running out of water — even a breath of wind can inspire a surge of hope.
So we felt a distinct lift to our spirits to hear that the Gila County Board of Supervisors may finally do something helpful when it comes to the struggles of the Rim Country economy.
The supervisors recently heard from the Industrial Development Authority of Gila County, headed by Realtor Cliff Potts, about the system for doling out economic development money, which ought to be devoted to attracting new businesses to the area. Much of the economic development money in the past has gone for lawyers’ fees — or ended up mostly used to finance small projects in Globe, the county seat.
Mounting complaints about the lopsided distribution and the modest results prompted the county some months ago to recast the Industrial Development Authority, with a committee balanced between north and south.
The IDA has hired a bond expert to leverage a modest pool of economic development money and use bonding to help businesses relocate or provide essential infrastructure.
We hope that the group moves quickly to establish a workable way to recruit more businesses to Rim Country. We urgently need help, especially since Payson’s separate business recruitment efforts have floundered since the departure of former Councilman Mike Vogel. While Payson has tried to keep the door open and the pine needles brushed off the welcome mat, the efforts have been scattered and modest.
As it happens, the Rim Country Regional Chamber of Commerce has also struggled in recent months, hit by a reorganization, new board members and a new manager. The chamber has yet to find a new footing — and work out its role in what ought to be a close partnership between Payson, Gila County and the local business community.
The recent presentation at a business awards luncheon by the economic development director from Camp Verde, which has revitalized an historic downtown stretch of restaurants and wineries, demonstrated what a concerted, consistent, well-supported effort can produce. Of course, in that case, the economic development office can rely on revenues from bed taxes, which Payson has largely absorbed into its recreation and tourism department.
Nonetheless, a steady rise in business license permits in the past few years in Payson also signifies a change in the weather, after five years in the doldrums.
We’re almost sure we just felt a breeze — soothing and cool — on our sweat-stained faces. The sails are gently lufting. We just hope that Payson, Gila County and the Rim Country Regional Chamber of Commerce won’t let that breeze die.