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5:15 AM Thu, Nov. 15th

Prescott hoping to spark economic growth

Focus is on drawing satellite branches of big companies

Small satellite branches of major companies could be Prescott’s entrée into the highly sought-after tech industry.

That was the word this week from the consultant working on economic development for the City of Prescott.

Jim Robb, who has been under contract with the city since February to guide Prescott’s economic development, appeared before the Prescott City Council on Tuesday, May 9, to present an overview of strategies and progress.

The bottom line, Robb said, is “how do we create high-paying jobs in the Prescott area?”

He emphasized that the initial goal is not for large companies that employ hundreds.

“The difference in the strategy I’m trying to do here … is we’re not saying we’re going have 500 people or 1,000 people moving here,” Robb said.

Rather, he said, he is looking for small satellites of large companies, which would “create sparks” in the Prescott economy.

“If we look at the technologies that can be incubated from our own universities or colleges, the second piece of that is what I call a satellite office,” Robb said.

For example, he said, “I’m talking to Microsoft right now, and we’re working on a program to have Microsoft put a satellite office here for 10 to 15 employees.”

Robb has emphasized that one of the keys to Prescott’s success would be its local universities – especially Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.

Calling ERAU the “crème de la crème” of tech universities, Robb told the council, “I’m trying to figure out how to utilize it for the city.”

Another method for getting Prescott on the radar of tech companies is through conferences and company strategy sessions. “My mission is to bring high-tech conferences here,” Robb said.

Already, he said, two major conferences are planned in Prescott: the Arizona Technology Council Retreat in August; and the Cyber-Awareness Conference in September.

“I look at that and say, ‘we have 100 technology CEOs that will be here in Prescott; that’s 100 people I can sell on why they should have a satellite office here,’” Robb said.

He maintains that bringing in satellites that employee 10 to 15 could improve Prescott’s economy “in a timely fashion that doesn’t change the culture and the charm of Prescott.”

But, he said, “What we do want to do is create high-paying jobs for our young people and start to create that energy coming back that will help to contribute to the tax base.”

Councilwoman Billie Orr commended Robb for the plan. “I think the thing I like most about this is we’re working with what we have already,” she said. “When you’re the number one place to live in the Southwest, why wouldn’t somebody want to have a satellite here?”

City Manager Michael Lamar also spoke of utilizing local assets. “You have to take advantage of what you have; you need to leverage your assets,” he said.

In response to questions from the council about what the city needs in order to move forward, Robb mentioned improvements to the airport that would allow for direct flights to technology hubs such as San Jose, California, as well as a high-end boutique hotel that could accommodate conferences of up to 100 people.