In the lingering aftershock of the nation’s 2008 recession, the Town of Oro Valley continues to make bold and aggressive strides toward supporting a prosperous economic future for its current and future residents and businesses.
Leading into the 2012-2013 fiscal year, staff and council demonstrated a “spend to earn” mentality by continuing to invest in local and regional partnerships with organizations like the Metropolitan Tucson Convention and Visitors Bureau (MTCVB), Tucson Regional Economic Opportunities (TREO), and the Greater Oro Valley Chamber of Commerce (GOVCC).
Among the three organizations, the Town spent about $141,000 this fiscal year, a dollar amount Town Manager Greg Caton more than expects to make up.
“I’m pleased to recommend full funding for these organizations,” he said. “They have proven themselves and brought value to Oro Valley. It’s just a good business decision. If I didn’t expect a return on these investments, I wouldn’t support them.”
Caton said there is sometimes a false perception by the public that the duties of the funded organizations and the Town’s own economic development staff overlap in their services.
“If you take TREO and MTCVB as two examples, they’re very different in what they do, and in their mission,” he said. “TREO, for example, is trying to attract significant employers to the region. We, as a local municipality, do not have the resources nor contacts that a regional organization like that would. MTCVB, on the other hand, is responsible for attracting tourism to the region. People have a choice where they want to go on vacation, and with the MTCVB, we are able to brand our Town as the place to come.”
Mayor Satish Hiremath has also been an active supporter of such economic efforts, and cited some tangible benefits to result from them.
“Because of TREO’s involvement with the expansion of Roche Ventana, we have undergone a branding campaign for the Town and region that Oro Valley is the leader in biotech, pharmaceuticals, and biosciences in Southern Arizona,” he said. “The MTCVB has been a great partner in bringing tourism to the Town. Between the Duathlon Nationals event in April and the Arizona Distance Classic, those two events alone in six and a half months have shown an economic benefit of over a million dollars.“
Hiremath also referred to MTCVB’s involvement in marketing the Town’s Aquatics Center, which is currently undergoing a $5 million transformation.
“Because of them, we have already secured a state swimming competition that will bring about 250 kids aged eight and under,” he said.
Caton said he expects an economic impact of close to $400,000 from the competition.
According to a feasibility study paid for by the Town, the new Aquatics Center could generate revenues of around $2.2 million per year.
Though Caton said there has been some concern over the expense of the Aquatics Center project, he said the manner in which the project is funded will benefit the community.
“Using Bed Tax Funds, which are restricted funds, we will see a return in our General Fund,” he said. “The Bed Tax funds cannot be used for the sole benefit of community members, but when we invest those dollars and they come back in sales tax dollars, then we can use those dollars for the community. In this case, the community also gets the benefit of using the pool.”
Caton said without investing in organizations that brand Oro Valley as a place to visit, live, and do business, the Town could easily fall off the map.
“People have options,” he said. “Are they going to go to Tucson, or are they going to go somewhere else? If they come to Tucson, are they going to come to Oro Valley, or are they going to go somewhere else? If our name is out there, and we are being aggressive in recruiting and marketing, they will come here. If we are quiet, and we don’t have good advertising and marketing out there, they could easily go somewhere else.”
Despite their advocacy for economic development, Caton and Hiremath have witnessed some opposition in funding organizations like TREO and MTCVB.
Hiremath said he thinks hesitancy to fund such organizations is the result of rhetoric from certain elected officials.
“If elected officials want to speak out against funding things like TREO, they have the right to,” he said. “However, based on our return on investment so far, and the fact that high level business executives are buying into TREO, then who are they to say it doesn’t work?”
The Town of Oro Valley recently hired two new economic development staff members as well as a web media developer.