Main Street plans

Bobby Davis (pointing at illustration) would regularly meet with business owners as the town’s economic development specialist. Here he participates in talks with Main Street merchants to add parallel parking to the street.

Plan the work.

Then work the plan.

That’s what Payson’s outgoing economic development specialist Bobby Davis has done every month in meetings with business and government leaders.

“This advisory group is to help me move the town along through our five-year economic development plan,” Davis told the assembled leaders in June.

Davis bases the agenda for his meetings on Payson’s Economic Development Strategic Plan. “It’s my bible,” Davis told the dozen attendees.

The plan focuses on helping existing businesses survive while attracting new ones — the only way to boost wages and lay an economic foundation.

Consultant Jim Rounds at the Arizona Association for Economic Development roundtable in May suggested, “I think it’s critical for communities to know who they are. You figure out what your economic profile is and you don’t try to be something that you are not ... you want to find where you have a good return on investment.”

In Payson, that means taking advantage of the tourist economy as well as the climate and outdoor lifestyle.

For instance, helping a young person working at a restaurant gain the skills to one day own a restaurant helps “move them up the income ladder,” he said.

It even works for retirees. “We have baby boomers moving into retirement, but you don’t have a cut off date with a gold watch,” he said. “More and more are setting up businesses. There could be opportunities that had been overlooked. They could teach at the local community college or work at a clinic. These are only partial retirees.”

But that takes public infrastructure — and commitment.

“If you start with a good foundation, then you keep building from there,” he said. “If you don’t have the basics, work on that. It takes a lot of work. It is hard to maintain that level of enthusiasm. It’s like starting a small business.”

During Davis’ meeting in June, a Department of Economic Security representative talked about plans to re-teach and retrain older workers, while creating an internship program for younger workers.

“The key initiative is job creation,” said Jeri Medina of DES.

The principal and vice principal of Payson High School discussed classes and training for their students.

“I am excited both for being the conduit to supply future employees,” said Michelle Doiron, the vice principal. “The kids are soaking it up like sponges because we’re giving them a relevant real-world opportunity.”

Local businesses found out what’s in the hopper for new businesses coming to the area.

Rim Country has addressed some of its challenges to economic growth by guaranteeing a 100-year water supply through the C.C. Cragin pipeline and upgrades to the sanitary district. Now, local officials are working to add high-speed reliable broadband.

With these upgrades to the infrastructure of the town, Payson hopes to attract the following industries:

• Tourism and Hospitality

• Health Care

• Business and Financial Services

• Software and Informational Technology

• Niche Manufacturing: firearms/munitions manufacturing, wood products and/or computer and electronic products.

“What we are talking about is critical and important,” said Davis. “The more we talk about the more we know, especially what we may need to expand and grow.”

Already, the community has several key assets in place or proposed:

• An old-town western square on Main Street, which can create a vibrant destination for local residents and visitors.

• The American Gulch project, a storm water drainage project connected to the Green Valley Lake to provide a lure for tourists and residents with trails for walking and biking.

• The multi-university campus with the potential to attract other higher educational institutions, as well as spin-off research and development operations.

• The Payson Municipal Airport and the Sky Park Industrial Center, home to several key business and manufacturing firms.

• Completion of the trails within town connecting to regional trails.

• Payson Event Center improvements to host year-round events.

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