Chamber's Ab Jackson handles economic development for Town
Looking to locate or expand a business or industry in Chino Valley? If so, you need to talk to Ab Jackson, Chino Valley Area Chamber of Commerce's CEO, as the chamber contracts to handle the town's economic development work.
In Prescott, that same person would talk to Jane Bristol, director of Economic Development or her assistant.
In Prescott Valley, it depends on the type of business you own or represent. People with retail or commercial businesses looking to locate there would talk to Greg Fister, the town's economic development manager. However, representatives of companies looking to locate a distribution center or industrial plant would talk to Gary Marks, Prescott Valley Economic Development Foundation's executive director. Representatives of existing firms in Prescott Valley looking to expand would talk with Marne Uhl, president and CEO of the Prescott Valley Chamber of Commerce or her staff.
Chino Valley's former mayor, Karen Fann, said the town had no one on its staff dealing with economic development when she took office.
She said one of the reasons the council hired Bill Pupo as the town's manager was his strong background in economic development.
Mayor Jim Bunker said midway through Pupo's stint as town manager, the council contracted for two years with David Kincaid from Phoenix to work on economic development.
"Kincaid has a lot of contacts with firms doing business in the Valley. He was talking to Fry's, Wal-Mart, etc. and making good contacts until the economy softened," Fann said.
She said the council had a shopping list of what businesses it would like to see come to Chino Valley for Kincaid to call on. "We wanted clean, good paying jobs, and not air polluting and high-water usage industries," she said.
An example of the kind of business the council doesn't want, she said, is a chip manufacturer. Fann said while it is a clean industry, it uses too much water.
Two years ago, after Jackson, who has a background in economic development, took over the chamber's helm, he asked Fann for a bigger contribution from the town. To justify it, he suggested the chamber lead the town's economic development effort. The council gave the chamber $30,000 this year to do this work.
Bunker is hopeful the council can allot the same amount for economic development next year. "We need to be involved in economic development even if the economy slows down," he said.
Chino Valley's $30,000 is the smallest amount any of the towns in the tri-city area budget for economic development. Bristol said Prescott's budget this year is $246,669. "Our budget has been going down 9 percent a year for the past two years," she said.
Prescott also spent $167,000 this year from bed taxes for the Prescott Area Coalition for Tourism to promote the city.
Prescott Valley spends a total of $400,187 yearly for the recruitment and retention of retail and commercial businesses, industries and tourism. The town's Economic Development Department's budget is $115,000 to seek sales tax producing entities, such as retail businesses, hotels and restaurants.
Prescott Valley pays the Prescott Valley Chamber of Commerce $114,750 for business retention, expansion, network opportunities (such as mixers and breakfasts) and maintaining the chamber's website.
Fister said this money also helps develop and publish a tourism brochure and operate the chamber's tourism center, continue Prescott Valley Days, the Valley of Lights and Festival of Lights.
The town also is paying the PVEDF $165,437 yearly to bring new businesses and industry to Prescott Valley. Fister said the town's contract calls for PVEDF to land 525 jobs in a three-year period ending this year.
He said Prescott Valley pays $5,000 to the Prescott Area Council for Tourism to promote the town.
The Chino Valley Chamber of Commerce, Jackson said, has a four-prong approach, which includes: economic development, business retention, business leakage (Shop Chino Valley), and providing training classes.
Last year, Jackson did sessions on customer service for town employees and chamber members. This year he plans to do some leadership training sessions.
Jackson ultimately would like to see two academies created. The first would be a Chino Valley Leadership Academy for future leaders so residents can learn more about local government. The second one would be a Citizens Academy so residents can serve their community better by becoming a member of Lions, Kiwanis, etc.
Jackson said he and Chamber President Charlie Arnold spend about 15 hours a week on economic development business.
Arnold said every week is different. Part of it is attending council or other governmental meetings. He also works with Jackson to follow up on leads, talks with representatives of companies looking at the town, taking them through their initial process, and forwards leads from Bright Star to the chamber. Some weeks he attends trade shows, such as the International Home Builders Conference in Las Vegas, Jan. 19-22.
Jackson said one of the big players in economic development in Arizona is APS. "They bring prospects through the area for me to talk to and show sites," he said.
He also spends a lot of his time getting and following up on economic development leads from the area's state legislators.
Jackson said whenever necessary he lines up state people to come up and help him and the town's representatives to talk to prospects.
Arnold said, "The town's thing is to get infrastructure (water and sewer) in. Our job is to recruit them."
In 2009, Jackson said the chamber got an ordinance enacted allowing A-frame signs and banners while crews were widening Highway 89 on the southern end of Chino Valley. It is supporting another year's extension of the ordinance.
The chamber also launched its You've Been Shopped by a Chino Valley chamber member program, published its first lodging and dining piece, and created an economic development packet that includes the "Town's Key to Chino Valley."
Last year, with the help of Chino Valley Vice Mayor Ron Romley, the chamber also negotiated the return of promotional banners across Highway 89.
"It had been five years since the Arizona Department of Transportation had allowed banners across Highway 89 to promote events in town," Jackson said. "The banner program is a major part of economic development (business retention)."
Jackson said shortly after taking over as the town's economic development agent he contacted Duane Noggle, Chino Valley Unified School District superintendent, to build a working relationship. As a result, the quarterly Business & Educators Breakfast got its start. "I believe you can't do economic development work in a community without good schools," Jackson said.
Arnold said the chamber's relationship with the town is key. "We've got to work together to bring more businesses and industry here," he said.
The chamber's board, Arnold said, "appreciates how economic development is supporting the town's existing businesses. The board is extremely supportive of economic development. Our members also see the need for it."
Jackson said since the chamber is a registered visitors center it carries material from 10 communities around Arizona along with economic development materials.
In 2009, the chamber joined Prescott Area Coalition for Tourism and PVEDF to land a $50,000 grant to help sponsor the entities' presence at trade shows and promote the three communities.
To do a better job of recruiting businesses and industry to Chino Valley, the chamber created the Chino Valley Economic Development Organization. Currently, Jackson said the new organization is part of the chamber. Eventually, it will become a separate entity like the Prescott Valley Economic Development Foundation, he said.
Jackson and Arnold raised money so they could create an economic development website for the new organization. It will be up and running sometime the first quarter of this year.
"A website, like this, is one of the greatest economic development tools available in landing companies," Arnold said. "Up to 80 percent of industrial people go to a town's economic development website before ever visiting the actual site."
Arnold said the success of the Chino Valley Economic Development Organization will depend on a good working relationship between it and the town.
Bunker said the town is happy with Jackson's efforts. "I hope we can continue contracting with the chamber for several years," he said.
Jackson foresees the chamber continuing to represent the town as its economic development agent in the near future. However, somewhere down the line when the economy turns around he would like to see the town get its own economic development department.
Fann believes it needs to be a joint effort between the town and chamber to make economic development work.
She said Chino Valley also needs more industrially zoned property within the town limits. Existing industrially zoned land is outside of the Prescott Active Management Area. "We've got to be careful so we don't contaminate the water at headwaters to the Verde River, and take more out of the Little Chino (aquifer)," Fann said.
Jackson said a big challenge for Chino Valley's economic development work is to get exposure out of the area. "People know Prescott, but not Chino Valley," he said.