Economic development is the process in which governments or community organizations engage to stimulate or maintain business activity and/or employment. The principal goal of economic development is to be a catalyst for employment opportunities in sectors that improve the region or community using existing human, natural and institutional resources. Within this framework are the “three pillars” that define most of what is considered to be economic development:

• Retention and expansion of existing businesses,

• Recruitment of businesses,

• Creation of businesses.

Let’s concentrate on the first of the three.

Retention and expansion consists of assisting existing businesses to help them grow in good times and survive in bad times. Recruitment gets the most media attention, but retention is equally important. Most job growth in any community comes from existing businesses. Saving a job that could have been lost is just as important as creating one. This is an activity identified in the Commerce focus area within our Strategic Plan.

The Marana Business Walk is a program instituted by the Sacramento, Calif., Chamber of Commerce and implemented by Ed Stolmaker from our Chamber. It consists of two-person teams, one from the Town and one from the Chamber, assigned to a geographical zone. Each team walks its respective sector to speak with the managers and/or owners of Marana businesses. A survey is facilitated with the businesses to identify needs and initiate a dialogue among them, the Town and the Chamber. The program’s ultimate goal is to gather information that leads to better community relationships, which translates to a higher business retention rate.

Two of the three scheduled business walks have been completed, reaching more than 600 businesses. Dozens of Town and Chamber employees and members have participated.

Businesses have been impressed with the program and the willingness of the Chamber and Town to work with them. The Town remains committed to this partnership and looks forward to the next business walk Sept. 12.

(Editor’s Note: Curt Woody is the Town of Marana’s Strategic Initiatives Manager.)

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