Now that Ina Road has been shut down at Interstate 10 for several months, Marana town officials and representatives from the Chamber of Commerce took a stroll to businesses in the area to see how the project has affected them.
The reaction was mixed: Some businesses, particularly restaurants and hotels, are seeing an expected drop in business, while other businesses—such as contractors—say there’s no real difference and a few even say business is up.
The business walk was a follow-up to a similar survey done before the massive road project, which will allow drivers on West Ina Road to pass over both the railroad tracks and the freeway. On the first business walk, the team listened to concerns and tried to let business owners know about the services that were available via the town, chamber and Arizona Department of Transportation.
Marana Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Ed Stolmaker called the feedback “very positive.”
“People wanted to talk and share their experiences, which was a big help,” he said.
The volunteers on the business walk asked a standard set of questions and that data is being crunched, but there were a few obvious takeaways.
Business said they were upset that the media—in particular, TV news—has told their audience that Ina Road is closed, rather than specifically explaining how freeway access has been affected.
Nearly every business appreciated the town’s effort to provide signage that businesses are stil open, but many felt the effort needs more muscle. Some complained about the design, while others said more signs needed to be up in different places. Others wanted more emphasis on the individual businesses rather than the broader concepts that businesses are “open for business.”
“Signage is something the town will have to address,” Stolmaker said. “Obviously there are restrictions the town has to look at, but that seemed to be the biggest thing brought up by businesses.”
While the businesses actually on Ina that relay on drive-up traffic have been hit the hardest, businesses off the main road seem to be doing well. Marana Economic Development Specialist Heath Vescovi-Chiordi and chamber member Don “The Virus Slayer” Winfield of Up & Running Computer Service toured a number of business on Camino Martin, following up their earlier businesses.
“It was a great opportunity to follow up with the businesses to see how the initial detours and closure of the interchange has affected traffic on Ina, and by extension, the success of the businesses,” Viscovi-Chiordi said.
For the most part the businesses in the area are doing well. Banas said his business was up slightly, while Richard Miller of Motion Sports said his clientele is loyal and he has seen no dip.
“I am still busy,” Miller said. “People know me, they know how to find me. I’ve got so much work that I don’t know what to do with myself.”
Several restaurants, including a Hooter’s franchise, closed because they feared they couldn’t survie the slump that construction brings. Others have had to be creative in trying to attract customers; Chicken Nuevo moved about a half mile down the road and recently held a ribbon-cutting for the new location to remind people they can still find their grilled chicken.
Several business owners said they make it a point to frequent area businesses as much as they can. Hunter Construction employees are making a point of filling up their cars and trucks at the neighborhood Circle K and, on the day of the business walk, had bought donuts from Donut Wheel for the office.
While several businesses have left the area, there are still new businesses coming in. Japan Karate Federation Tucson just moved out of a fitness center and into their own facility.
The owners were putting the finishing touches on the building and are conducting classes.