PRESCOTT – During his 12 years heading up the Prescott Chamber of Commerce, David Maurer has experienced the heights of commerce in the community, as well as the depths.
Throughout the early 2000s, he said, the number of businesses skyrocketed. “We peaked at roughly 1,100 (Chamber) members in 2005/2006,” recalls Maurer, who retired from the job of Chamber CEO this past week.
Within a few years, that number had plummeted to less than 800 members, as the economic downturn caused some businesses to close, and others to cut back on expenses such as their Chamber membership fees.
Since the downturn years, Maurer says the Chamber has slowly been adding new members again. Still, “we’re not back to where we were,” he said.
Noting that membership now stands at about 850, Maurer said, “We’ve come a long way, and the potential is very bright.”
The lean years caused the Chamber to rethink the way it views growth, and generates revenue, Maurer said, noting that chambers of commerce everywhere have been undergoing similar changes.
“One of the changes we’ve seen is – we were too hung up on the numbers,” Maurer said. In the last four years or so, the Chamber has shifted its focus more to sponsorships, special events, arts and crafts shows, and publications.
“It’s not going to happen anymore that every business joins the Chamber,” Maurer said. But, he added, “The underlying mission of the Chamber will always be the same. We’re here to represent the business community so their businesses can survive and thrive.”
Another change that is more unique to Prescott is the evolving situation at the Yavapai County Courthouse Plaza – long the venue for a variety of community events and fundraisers.
The Yavapai County Board of Supervisors recently approved a new contract with the Prescott Downtown Partnership that cuts the number of events on the courthouse plaza, and imposes new rules and fines.
Maurer notes that the changes “have been coming for one, maybe two years,” as the county has expressed concerns about the condition of the plaza grass.
But, he said, “That land (courthouse plaza) has been here for 100 years, and it has seen many uses.” Although acknowledging that use of the plaza has been on the upswing recently, Maurer says, “The grass doesn’t seem to be dying off.”
He added that the activities on the square are a central component of tourism in Prescott. “People expect to find activities when they get here,” Maurer said.
And he questioned the equality of some of the new rules and fines. “What’s odd about it is if somebody places a box on the ground … they’ll be fined for that,” Maurer said of the new rules. “Yet every day, people come down and spread blankets on the courthouse plaza for hours. It comes down to a fairness issue, I guess.”
During his years as Chamber CEO, Maurer has seen a number of downtown events grow significantly – especially those that occur during the Christmas season.
In fact, it was during his first year on the job that the Chamber took on responsibility for the Courthouse Lighting (along with the Prescott Downtown Partnership).
“It’s been fun,” Maurer said of his growing involvement with the Arizona Christmas City events. “It’s fun to see the community come together. And we’ve tried to do something new each year.”
This year, he said, “We had the biggest turnout ever” for the Courthouse Lighting event. At about 7,500 attendees, the event is “close to capacity,” Maurer added.
Maurer and his wife, Nancy, plan to stay in Prescott for their retirement, and Maurer said he intends to remain involved in a number of community causes.