Originally Published: August 9, 2017 6 a.m.
Regardless who wins the city elections, here is a different idea for an economic development program. It’s an idea I’ve knocked around with a few local people and have suggested several variations on.
Let’s call it the Entrepreneur Magnet. How does it work? Two points as set up: One, more and more work is becoming location-independent. We are more of a service economy and many of those services can be done remotely, from your tax accounting, to sending your digital X-ray to a specialist somewhere else to diagnose. And more jobs within a company can be done remotely.
Two, lots of people visit here, wish they could work here, but typically go back to L.A. or wherever and work till they retire, then move here. It is more and more the case that people don’t have to wait. Especially if they are in high-skilled information jobs. It’s the people who are consultants, and the people who work for companies but have gotten so good at their area that they could become independent consultants. It’s the people who put the finishing Photoshop touches on images for ads, the people who review a new baby-seat design or a new jungle-gym design to check if it passes structural standards for kids, and a thousand other jobs.
When those people visit, they should find a brochure in every hotel room, from the city of Prescott saying, hey, if you wish you could move here and you have business to bring with you, we’ll jump through hoops to help. We’ll get some of the executives who’ve retired here to do a quick review of what you want to do, similar to SCORE (to filter out the pipe dreamers), and connect you with local Realtors to help find space, local banks to help find financing, set you up with a concierge to walk you through permits and other getting settled issues, connect you with others who’ve done the same move recently to get their support. There must be a dozen ways I haven’t thought of that the city and some helpful people could give encouragement and smooth the process.
Those entrepreneurs would bring into the city the profits they make on sales of their consulting or whatever. Profits that come from clients elsewhere. That means an inflow of money. They would use local business services and stores. Some would hire locals as helpers. If we get lucky, some might grow to sizable businesses.
In the past we have succeeded at attracting a large, existing business who brought a lot of jobs, and later changed their minds and moved elsewhere. A web of smaller business would be much more loyal to the area. Even when a big employer moves here, they are generally owned by people elsewhere. With these small businesses, the ownership is here, the money comes here, the money stays here.
These would likely be clean, low-impact businesses.
Local young adults would witness the entrepreneurial success and might start their own ventures, rather than moving away. This kind of help can apply just as much to our local college graduates as to visitors.
Tourism is good and will happen naturally in this community, but too much is bad for the area. Praying for a big company to move in and be our savior is risky, and lacks initiative. The Entrepreneur Magnet uses Prescott’s strengths, and is something it could be exceptionally good at, and get great benefit from.
Tom Cantlon is a local business owner and writer and can be reached at comments at tomcantlon.com.