With the Ina Road Interchange poised to close, the Marana Chamber of Commerce and town of Marana officials walked door to door in the area last week to get feedback on the project and inform businesses about what resources are available.
Mayor Ed Honea, Council Member Patti Comerford, Town Manager Gilbert Davidson, Assistant Town Manager Jamsheed Mehta and Police Chief Terry Rozema were among the town officials seeking feedback. They were joined by several chamber employees as well as business owners such as Terry Kyte of the Bisbee Breakfast Club and Javier Avalos of Spectrum Auto Collision.
“I think it says a lot about the type of community we have in Marana,” Honea said. “There are not many places where town leaders, chamber leaders and local business leaders would partner to do something like this.”
Most chamber business walks, which occur every couple of years, cover every area of the town and go over a wide variety of topics. This year’s version was special to just the Ina/I-10 region and all conversations centered on the impending closure.
“The importance of the walk is for the town of Marana and the chamber to go out and have a conversation with the businesses and provide them with the information they are going to need to prepare for the closure of I-10,” said Marana Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Ed Stolmaker.
The first component of the business walk was a fact-finding mission. During the previous business walk, officials asked a variety of questions and their discoveries paved the way to implementing the half-cent sales tax to fund the new police facility.
This year, the only question asked regarded whether people had a positive or negative attitude about the road project. Without a thorough analysis of the data, only cursory conclusions could be made, but the snapshot takeaway was that the perception of projected depended on what kind of business owner was polled. Most seemed to think that the project was going to be great when completed, but the plan for two-plus years of road closures has some business owners concerned.
For most of the businesses on Camino Martin, drive-by traffic has little affect on their business, so those owners were not very concerned. Companies like EcoPest and Automation EZ won’t be hurt by the fact that drive-by traffic is expected to be reduced by 80 percent because they have established customer bases and rarely host clients in their place of business.
Catalina Brewery does the majority of its business at its location, but the owners aren’t very worried. Unlike traditional bars and restaurants, breweries tend to be a destination, not something that people drop by on a whim.
“People hunt out breweries,” said Catalina Brewery co-owner Brian Vance. “We are not freaking out.”
Traditional restaurants, as well as many of the businesses t hat rely on freeway traffic, are less confident. Some, such as Chuy’s or Jack In the Box, either moved their location or are shutting down their stores during construction. Chicken Nuevo opened a second Marana location at the Tucson Premium Outlets, then closed their store adjacent to the freeway for a newer location about half a mile to the east of the freeway. The fast-food chicken restaurant will still be affected by a lack of traffic, but will not have to deal with the full effects of construction right outside the business.
The business walk was also designed to inform businesses of the variety of resources to aid them during the project. The town has created a Project Marana app to promote businesses, a marketing program to remind consumers that Ina Road is still open and relaxed sign code rules to allow businesses extra signage for the duration of the project.
The Regional Transportation Authority is providing a number of resources, including free sign design and consulting opportunities. The Marana Chamber of Commerce is doing its part as well by trying to partner with those businesses in the area whenever possible. The chamber is teaming up with the Catalina Brewing Company to throw a block party, which will also serve as a business expo for Ina Road businesses that could suffer from the closure.
The data accumulated and a report will be generated over the next week or so, but Stolmaker’s snapshot analysis from the walk and other interactions with area businesses is mostly positive.
“I believe that most businesses are ready, are prepared for the changes and have the tools provided by the town and the chamber to be successful,” Stolmaker said.