Originally Published: October 13, 2013 6 a.m.
PRESCOTT - Regional economic development, with communities cooperating to bring industry and higher-paying jobs, is a goal that quad-city-area business and civic leaders have been working on for years.
Proponents of regional economic development believe neighboring municipalities benefit when a major employer sets up shop in another jurisdiction. For instance, residents of Prescott Valley, Dewey-Humboldt and Chino Valley might work for a plant that opens at the Prescott Airpark.
It is what Alexandria Wright calls the "multiplier effect" of communities benefiting from job creation elsewhere, Wright, 38, should know as the first director of the Regional Economic Development Center at Yavapai College, with offices at the Prescott and Verde Valley campuses.
Wright, who started on the job in August, said Yavapai College's board of trustees established the center because it determined economic development is one of the college's top priorities.
"To that end, the Regional Economic Development Center was created with the goal of facilitating economic development in the areas of business attraction, retention, expansion and entrepreneurship," Wright said. She said the center seeks to "foster a healthy and resilient economy" by providing regional economic analyses, industry skills training and a point of contact for businesses and local governments.
The center staff will work closely with other economic development entities and municipalities throughout Yavapai County, Wright said.
She also will oversee the Small Business Development Center and hired its new director, Kurt Haskell, who will move his office from South Montezuma Street to the college at 1100 E. Sheldon St. in November. The SBDC provides one-on-one sessions with business people and offers workshops.
In essence, the regional center is serving as a think tank by generating labor market analyses and other reports that business people may use to make intelligent decisions. Wright printed out an 11-page economic analysis that covers age groups, educational backgrounds, employment by industry sectors, wages, growing and declining occupations, exports and other data.
"Good research contributes to good decisions," Wright said. "We're open to provide a lot of information so that bad decisions don't get made."
Wright is so new on the job that she is waiting for her business cards to be printed, and describes her budget as a work in progress. She works out of a dimly lit office inside Building 30 at the Prescott campus.
She is trying to get the word out, and meet business owners and counterparts in economic development.
"I am meeting with as many business owners that I can possibly meet with," Wright said.
Himself new at the job, Jeff Burt, director of economic initiatives at the City of Prescott, said he spoke to Wright a week ago "to get some feel for what we are working on.
"We talked about some of the data, demographics research capabilities that they are hoping they are able to do to help provide that information to economic development organizations in the area," Burt continued.
The creation of the regional economic development center and hiring of Wright drew praise from Prescott Valley Town Manager Larry Tarkowski. He said the center "dovetails with and complements" economic development efforts of cities and towns in the county.
Tarkowski said the center also will help the Greater Prescott Regional Development Partnership, which the Central Arizona Partnership recently created with the goal of working with local jurisdictions to create jobs.
"For two years there has been a growing movement toward regional cooperation, both public and private," Tarkowski said. "We applaud Yavapai College for identifying and acting on the need for greater economic development efforts."
Wright said she accepted the job because she is "so impressed by how engaged the college is in this community."
She is a doctoral candidate in political and economic sciences at Northern Arizona University - where she also earned her bachelor's and master's degrees ¬- and previously worked five years at Community & Corporate Learning Division at Coconino Community College in Flagstaff.
"I did labor analyses (and) designed industry skills training," Wright said. "I managed federal workforce training grants."
Before joining Coconino Community College, Wright said she worked for two years in economic development in Flagstaff with various Indian tribes.
Wright said her goals include making a solid presence for SBDC throughout Yavapai College and to develop a three-year strategic plan by the end of the year.
She also plans to move to Prescott from Flagstaff, where her husband, Bryce, owns a bicycle shop. She grew up in Pasadena, Calif.
For more information, contact the regional center at 776-2378.
Follow reporter Ken Hedler on Twitter @KenHedlines.
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