New retention plan to give insight on current and future business in the Verde

Economic development groups partner with APS, NACOG, Yavapai College and local chambers

A new program is being launched to help retain and grow existing businesses in the Verde Valley.

The Arizona Public Service sponsored program, Building Bridges to Business, assesses the needs of local businesses. It identifies the strengths and weaknesses of a company, analyzes individual companies' impact on the community and gives insight into how to further grow emerging businesses and save those in trouble.

"Often, we don't know if a business is struggling until it is too late," Cottonwood Economic Development Planner Casey Rooney said. "This program will help the city's economic development office form closer relationships with existing businesses to help them expand during good times and survive during tougher economic cycles."

For example, if the program identifies that 85 percent of the businesses are growing, Rooney could go to those growing companies with the data collected and determine what could be done to help further expand the business.

In turn, the program could identify, for example, the 15 percent of businesses that are failing. It would determine if the Verde Valley can afford to lose that business and what resources are needed to be brought to the table to help save it.

"We might be able to identify their biggest challenge," Rooney said.

A similar 2003 Prescott-area, APS-sponsored program gave insights to economic professionals on future business growth, the types of companies most likely to come to the area and so on.

"It is a planning tool that assesses the current business status in the community and the future of local business," Rooney said.

Roughly 30 to 40 businesses are to be surveyed. Letters will be sent out to prospective businesses, followed by a phone call, informing them of the program. Phase one of the project will focus on manufacturing businesses. Phase two will deal with the retail sector.

Over the next three months, representatives from participating manufacturing businesses will sit down with a team of two individuals to conduct an hour-long, confidential survey. Results of the survey will be tabulated into a final report.

Some of the questions will ask:

• The value of the business to the community?

• Is the business poised for growth?

• How many new jobs are expected to be created by the company?

• What does the company see as strengths and weaknesses in the community?

These questions could be helpful for a business as well as the city. For example, a company could identify high real-estate costs and/or lack of qualified labor as reasons as to why they are struggling.

"I can take the report to my board of directors and say, 'This is why 90 percent of businesses say they cannot relocate here,'" Rooney said.

By asking the number of employees and payroll questions, the program can help show businesses how many teachers or police officers -- or road repairs -- are being employed or completed through taxes being paid by those on the company's payroll. This shows the local impact a business has on a community.

"I think a company would like to know that," Rooney said.

According to a release from Cottonwood's economic development department, "Through surveys, interviews and innovative technology, the program is designed to specifically to help economic development professionals retain and grow existing businesses through proactively managing the portfolio of the community's high impact and wealth-generating businesses."

Names of businesses and personal information will not be listed in the final report. Partners involved in the program include APS, NACOG, Yavapai College, local chambers of commerce and regional economic professionals.

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