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4:59 PM Tue, Oct. 16th

PV council backs new regional economic development group

PRESCOTT VALLEY - A newly formed regional economic development organization gained the support Thursday from the Town Council here.

In fact, the council appears ready to support the Greater Prescott Regional Economic Partnership financially by committing $1 per capita in the town, which has more than 38,000 residents.

Council members listened to a presentation during the work/study meeting from Steve Rutherford, who heads GPREP's board, is on the board of the Prescott Valley Economic Development Foundation and served briefly on the council years ago. Mayor Harvey Skoog was absent.

"This concept idea has been floating around for a couple of years," Rutherford told the council.

He said Arizona Public Service hired ESI Corp. of Scottsdale to develop a plan.

The 39-page report states on its first page, "The civic and business leadership within the Prescott area recognize the importance of regionalism and have come together to create the Greater Prescott Regional Economic Partnership (GPREP). Crafting the economic development strategic plan for implementation is one of the first steps to be undertaken. This plan represents a three-year blueprint to enhance job creation for the region, and includes an action plan and cluster based strategies."

Rutherford mentioned Yavapai College recently hired Alexandria Wright as director of its new regional economic development center, and the City of Prescott named Jeff Burt as director of economic initiatives.

"I think the role of GPREP is marketing the region to outside entities," he said.

Councilman Marty Grossman said he read the entire report, adding, "You really covered just about every aspect."

Grossman said the report mentions obstacles such as the lack of building space.

He was referring to a reference that reads, "From a business retention and recruitment standpoint, there is little shovel ready land available and the existing inventory of buildings is not the size that is in demand by potential users."

Decisions on the size of buildings rest with the private sector, Rutherford said in response to Grossman's comment. However, he said GPREP can work with the private sector.

Grossman said he looks forward to see what results GPREP can achieve.

GPREP can help to attract higher-paying jobs, Town Manager Larry Tarkowski said.

Rutherford said, "We are out soliciting from the private sector."

GPREP's report states the preliminary goal is to raise between $200,000 and $300,000 per year for operations of a regional partnership.

Council members Mary Mallory, Lora Lee Nye and Michael Whiting also expressed support for GPREP.

GPREP's report states, "The biggest barrier as a region is lack of community cohesiveness and trust, which makes it difficult to come together on common goals."

The report states the economic development action plan is predicated around five focus areas with an "overarching goal" for each one. The goals are marketing, recruitment, business retention and expansion, research and capacity building, and investor relations.

The plan also identifies cluster-based strategies: manufacturing, aviation and aerospace, and defense and security.

The report identifies the next steps for GPREP as constituting a board of directors with both public and private-sector representatives, continuing the fundraising campaign and securing multi-year commitments from the quad cities, Yavapai County and the private sector.

It identifies challenges as retaining recent graduates and attracting a skilled workforce, and drawbacks as including the lack of affordable housing and insufficient jobs with base industries such as aerospace and manufacturing.

The report identifies key potential opportunities as unmanned aerial systems, improvements at Ernest A. Love Field and career technical education.

The report is available for view and printing at http://pvaz.granicus.com/MetaViewer.php?view_id=5&clip_id=1224&meta_id=55685.

Follow reporter Ken Hedler on Twitter @KenHedlines.