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10:04 PM Fri, Sept. 21st

<I>New economic development manager</I><BR>Fister is leaving Prescott for PV job

On Feb. 28, Greg Fister of Prescott will become the Town of Prescott Valley's economic development manager.

Currently he is Prescott's economic development coordinator.

He will succeed Mike Shaffer, the town's first economic development manager, who resigned on Oct. 25 – with an effective date of Nov. 5 – after two years on the job.

Town Manager Larry Tarkowski said that when Shaffer initially interviewed for the job, "I took him to the Harkins Theater area and at that point in time we had spec buildings, and no occupants, and he was tasked very clearly in assisting the private owner of those spec buildings to go ahead and get them full."

Tarkowski said that when Shaffer resigned, he told Tarkowski that he had accomplished what the town had asked him to do – the buildings were full.

"Bravo to him, he did a great job," Tarkowski said.

Tarkowski said he is excited about bringing the new manager on board to fit in with the town's three-fold strategy of economic development partnership. This includes the Prescott Valley Chamber of Commerce, whose focus is business retention and expansion; the Prescott Valley Economic Development Foundation, which brings in or creates jobs through industrial growth; and the town's economic development manager.

"Greg's position is to focus in on commercial job growth and revenue growth as it relates to commercial enterprises that create tax dollars," Tarkowski said.

The town manager added that the town was "very deliberate" in its search for a new manager, receiving nearly 20 applications and conducting three interviews. Fister brings the appropriate skills and has a good track record as a team player, he said.

"He also brings the dimension for regional cooperation in the quad-city area," Tarkowski said. "He's well-known in economic circles. He will hit the ground running and has no steep learning curve to overcome."

The town will pay Fister an annual salary of $68,016. This is more than Shaffer's beginning salary of $64,864, but considerably less than Shaffer's final salary of $75,536.

A native of Lake Charles, La., Fister worked as a journalist in Germany while in the U.S. Army from 1972-76. Upon his discharge, he enrolled in Northern Arizona University, where he received a bachelor of science degree in journalism in December 1978.

In the spring of 1979 he headed back to the East Coast and became the education reporter on the Pine Bluff Commercial newspaper in Pine Bluff, Ark.

Three years later, in February 1982, Fister moved west to Prescott. From then to 1986, he wrote for The Daily Courier. The first two years he was its education and features reporter, before switching over to the city government beat for the last two years. From 1986-1987, he was editor of the weekly Prescott Sun.

In the summer of 1987, the City of Prescott created the position of public information officer. For the next nine years, Fister served in that capacity with Prescott.

In 1996, the city created the position of economic development coordinator, and Fister moved to that position and has served in that role since.

Fister said three of his biggest accomplishments, in that role, are:

• Getting the Prescott Gateway mall within the city limits and open. That was a five-year effort, he said.

• Being a member of the committee that created the downtown management entity – the Prescott Downtown Organization.

• Working as a member of the project team to get Wal-Mart into the city limits and off the Yavapai-Prescott Indian reservation. The store opened in the fall of 2003.

Fister, while working and living in Prescott since 1982, said he has watched Prescott Valley develop. "The past five years Prescott Valley has been aggressive and innovative," he said.

He said one of his priorities will be to cut down on sales tax "leakage."

"(The town needs) to provide services within your own city … and keep the sales tax dollars within the city," he said. "I think Prescott Valley is under-retailed."

He added that he would like to attract more hoteliers and restaurateurs, and expects that the market will demand another regional mall someday. He plans to look at sites and talk to property owners about those issues.

Fister said his biggest failure was the Yavapai County Fairgrounds and Yavapai Downs racetrack re-locating to Prescott Valley instead of in Prescott.

As for Global Entertainment's proposed multipurpose center, he said that "after working with them for five years we didn't feel it fit in Prescott."

However, he sees it as a possible great asset for Prescott Valley.

Fister said he will be focusing on retail firms, as he has been doing in Prescott.

"This was a great career opportunity for me. I know the mayor and a couple of the councilmen as well as Gary Marks, Prescott Valley Economic Development Foundation executive director, and some of the Fain family," he said. "This business is all about relationships. You have to build those relationships.

"The groundwork's been laid and I'm ready to jump in."

He and his wife, Diana, have five grown children.

Jerry J. Herrmann is the managing editor and Cheryl Hartz is a reporter for the Prescott Valley Tribune.