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1/22/2014 9:19:00 AM
Development and jobs are keys to bright future
Town of Prescott Valley Economic Development Manager Greg Fister offers good news at the Prescott Valley Chamber of Commerce’s  quarterly breakfast yesterday. Fister joked he no longer feels like crying when relating numbers about the town’s economy.
Trib Photo/Cheryl Hartz
Town of Prescott Valley Economic Development Manager Greg Fister offers good news at the Prescott Valley Chamber of Commerce’s quarterly breakfast yesterday. Fister joked he no longer feels like crying when relating numbers about the town’s economy.
Trib Photo/Cheryl Hartz

Cheryl Hartz
News Editor

A rosy picture emerged for the Town of Prescott Valley and the greater Quad-Cities at the Chamber of Commerce's quarterly breakfast yesterday.

"There's cause for optimism," began breakfast host Sanford Cohen, owner of Arizona's Hometown Radio Group. "Prescott Valley is willing to take a leadership role in innovation - that doesn't happen by accident," Cohen said. "People here recognize the value of development. Business is not the enemy; business is our ally."

Prescott Valley Mayor Harvey Skoog said townfolk are challenged to maintain and embrace its quality of life, but to do that, more jobs are necessary.

"Develop jobs and our young poeple have a fighting chance to succeed," Skoog said, adding Prescott Valley should be a place where youngsters can grow up, get jobs and eventually retire.

Skoog noted the town entered the 21st century in a moderate economy, when people were making a comfortable living. Prosperity "went through the roof" in 2005, with town revenue at an all-time high, he said.

"In 2008, the economy tanked," he said. "Arizona lost 23,000 jobs, with 11,000 of them in Yavapai County."

He said although less than half of those jobs have been recovered, the majority them were "right here in Prescott Valley."

He also said the town continued to grow, with a population between 42,000 and 43,000 in 2013.

"We could call Prescott Valley the Jewel of Northern Arizona," he concluded.

Town Economic Development Manager Greg Fister, who said he normally downplays new projects, showed his enthusiasm this time.

"Frankly, (at the midpoint of Fiscal Year 2014), it's been a real good year," he said, then cited specific examples.

Since FY 2014 started in July 2013, 210,000 square feet of retail space was built and opened for business, and an additional 40,000 square feet is under construction. The towns building department could see submitted in the next few months another half dozen new buildings, with up to 100,000 square feet of retail space, he said. Also in the past six months, the town has issued 237 new business licenses, as compared to 419 in all of the previous FY.

In 2012 and 2013, the value of commercial construction projects showed a 38 percent increase, and commercial improvement projects a 115 percent increase, over 2010 and 2011.

"We're up 15 percent in sales tax revenue. That's unheard of in my world," Fister said.

He related the first six months of FY 2014 shows $1 million in sales tax collections, which equals the total of collections for six-month periods of the previous five years.

He said because Prescott Valley has grown its economy by $250 million in the past two years, people have reason to be optimistic.

"I used to be up here trying not to cry when talking numbers," Fister only half-joked. "Those days are gone."

Gary Marks, executive director of the Prescott Valley Economic Development Foundation, said he anticipates a 2-3 percent growth rate for business this year and 4 percent the following year.

"If you exclude construction numbers, we actually saw a job gain in Prescott Valley (during the recession). We're the only Yavapai County community that can say that," Marks said.

"My projection for the next six months is another gain in base jobs that will double what we've seen in the last two years."

Marks went out on a limb with an even bigger projection.

"By 2025, there will be two "Valleys" in Arizona - the Lower Valley and the Upper Valley," he said, explaining that Prescott Valley will be at the heart of the state's Upper Valley.

He cited four areas - health services, education, manufacturing and business services - as the cornerstones for town growth, and hinted he would be ready to make announcements of coming attractions at the next breakfast.

Steve Rutherford, the chair of the Greater Prescott Regional Economic Partnership, which started 2013, announced the organization had hired an interim director in Denise Steiger.

"The private sector folks saw the value of a regional economic development entity," Rutherford said, adding the entity uses the same model as PVEDF. "PVEDF will always have a role, we don't see that changing, but we need somebody that represents the region."

His emphasis is on "growing the pie, growing the pie," creating wealth by attracting new base industries - "new money."

He agreed with Skoog that young people need opportunities to stay in the area.

"Someone said our best export is our kids and that has to stop," Rutherford stressed.

The final speaker, Alexandria Wright, director of the Regional Economic Development Center at Yavapai College, said her agency exists to provide a liaison between the business and academic communities. She sees a need for good labor analysis, along with strategic economic development and policy, and entrepreneurial services. She called her "biggest news" the college and town's master plan for a Center for Excellence in Nursing and Allied Health, which down the road would combine programs now in two buildings into one new facility.

Related Stories:
• Town's future looking rosy
• Sales tax revenues, commercial building starts strong in first half of this fiscal year

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