Wed, June 26

VVREO loan fund helps local businesses finance

Business owner Jamie Fullmer (left) and winemaker John Scarbrough

Business owner Jamie Fullmer (left) and winemaker John Scarbrough

The Verde Valley Regional Economic Organization (VVREO) Capital Creation Committee was formed to help local businesses meet their capital needs. Major funding for that purpose began with a $200,000 grant from USDA Rural Development to establish a revolving loan fund for local business.

VVREO's first major loan was to Robin Bryer and Ed White to complete the necessary financing for the Predator Zip Line. The second major loan was to Jamie Fullmer to complete the financing required to establish the Fire Mountain Wines tasting room in Old Town Cottonwood.

Fullmer is well known and respected here as the former Director of Health and Human Services and two-term chairman of the Yavapai-Apache Nation. He has developed a strong reputation throughout the state and around the country, having served as a director of Native Home Capital, a community development finance institution.

Native Americans have been growing grapes in the Verde Valley for over 3,000 years and when Jamie saw the birth of the local wine industry, he was intrigued. He reviewed the economic impact studies that had been done by the University of Arizona and Northern Arizona University and determined to combine his heritage, his business experience, and the opportunities presented by the burgeoning new industry to create his own winery with his own business model.

He founded Fire Mountain Wines envisioning a Native American-owned winery focused on developing a market and selling his wine initially through Native American resorts, restaurants, and casinos. As an example of the success of his original core business plan, his wines are currently available at the Cliff Castle Casino's Storytellers Restaurant and shops and at such other Native American properties as the Navajo's Twin Arrows on I-40, the Gila River Indian's Wild Horse Pass in Phoenix, and the Yaqui's Casino del Sol in Tucson. It's also available at many top wine shops and restaurants and on the Club Level for the Arizona Cardinal football games in Glendale.

With the rapid growth of the company, they had reinvested their proceeds into their operations and needed additional capital to make a tasting room a reality. Local banks have been slow to recognize their opportunities with the wine industry and so Fullmer approached VVREO. After the Capital Creation Committee completed their due diligence, VVREO loaned the company $50,000.

Fire Mountain secured their location at 1010 N. Main St. in the heart of Old Town Cottonwood and began the lengthy task of remodeling, decorating, staffing, and preparing for business. They became the fourth winery tasting room in Old Town.

VVREO Chair Mary Chicoine stated that the organization was pleased to have assisted in the founding of this successful business and would shortly be making additional loans to other small businesses in the Verde Valley. She asked parties who might be interested in a loan to contact a member of the Capital Creation Committee, which is chaired by Ron Epperson, and now includes Casey Rooney, Tom Pitts, Steve Goetting, and Bill Jump, or e-mail the committee at