Economic development directors in the Verde Valley are much like marathon runners.
There is no such thing as instant gratification for those whose job it is to stimulate and invigorate their community’s economy. There are more false starts in this race than finish lines.
Camp Verde just ran up against one of those false starts recently as its contract with Retail Strategies ended as of this week.
As Camp Verde Economic Development Director Steve Ayers surmised of the town’s relationship with the brick-and-mortar retail headhunter, “None of my discussions with them gave me a warm and fuzzy feeling.”
In the next breath, though, Ayers admitted that “warm and fuzzy” feelings are few and far between in his line of work.
But the town’s relationship with Retail Strategies should not be considered a bust. As Town Manager Russ Martin observed last week, “We haven’t won the Super Bowl yet, meaning those conversations didn’t lead to business moving here as a result. But we were in those conversations, which is something we hadn’t been in the past.”
The question now for Camp Verde is where does the town go from here? Answering that question will require some honest admissions about the world we live in today. Major brick-and-mortar retailers aren’t knocking down doors to build new stores in rural markets. You read more about the bankruptcy of such big box chains than you do about stores opening in new markets.
Online shopping – especially those with bargain-basement pricing such as Amazon and eBay – has forever changed our shopping world.
That doesn’t mean Camp Verde should fold its tent when it comes to economic development. Because of its availability of land and immediate access to Interstate 17, Camp Verde probably has more to offer prospective new businesses than any other community in the Verde Valley. That is a huge selling point.
There is also the realistic balancing act of weighing the business interests of what will generate revenue for the town vs. what will create good-paying jobs for the people in Camp Verde. A major ware-housing distribution center, for example, isn’t going to be the retail gold mine towns like Camp Verde dream of, but it certainly would create a lot of decent jobs for the people who live there.
As Camp Verde moves forward with its economic development interests, both town staff and elected council have to realize that false starts come with the territory.
They are running a marathon.
You have to stay in the race over the long haul.