Business people in northern Pima County have experienced the pain of financial dependence. Now they’re enjoying the freedom of financial independence.

A year ago, remember, the Oro Valley Town Council said “no more.” It decided not to fund the Northern Pima County Chamber of Commerce to the tune of $25,000.

That hurt the pride, as the kids would say, but more directly the pocketbook.

Now, with no financial ties to town government, the chamber is emboldened to speak out. And it is doing so.

A chamber committee is recommending that, a year from now, Oro Valley bolster its financial commitment to economic development. It suggests the town dedicate half the money from its 6 percent lodging tax to that need, and specifically fund its own economic development department, and the support organizations that include the Metropolitan Tucson Convention and Visitors Bureau, Tucson Regional Economic Opportunities and the Critical Path Institute.

Nobody knows better than chamber members just how difficult these times have become. They recognize the financial difficulty Oro Valley government is enduring, and are sympathetic about it. So they’re amenable to reductions in funding for TREO and the MTCVB this coming fiscal year, with the hope those commitments grow in fiscal 2010-’11.

And, further, the Hilton Tucson El Conquistador wants Oro Valley to take the resort’s now-rebated portion of the bed tax in 2010, and puts it to use revving the community’s economic engine. That suggestion makes sense, in the view of El Conquistador general manager Lynn Ericksen, because it does not single out one business for advantage, but rather the entire business environment. And it gives the elected a political leg to stand on should they choose this renewed commitment of resources to economic vitality.

Of note is the chamber’s tone about all this. The organization is taking the publicly high road with its suggestions.

“We have not taken our decision to engage in this discussion lightly,” writes chamber board chairman Greg Forszt. “Just as we respect your commitment to public service, and understand the magnitude of the decisions before you, we are confident that you will recognize our shared commitment to the success of Oro Valley.”

“The purpose of this Committee is to educate our members and the business community, but above all, promote constructive dialogue between the different jurisdictions,” writes chamber president Ramon Gaanderse.

Nor is TREO’s David Welsh, Oro Valley’s former director of economic development, wanting to “throw stones” at the town council. Demands for money are ceaseless, interests compete, and there’s only so much to go around, everyone knows.

The time to diversify and develop an economy is when things are flush. That’s when momentum grows, when enthusiasm rises, when people are willing to take risks and commit resources to expand the pie. Right now, the pie has shrunken. As government reduces itself, and as the economy recovers in the new year, Oro Valley and the Northwest shall have terrific opportunities, and they should be pursued.

Forszt recognizes the suggestions regarding economic development investment “are not easy or politically palatable to some.”

If undertaken, they will “nonetheless keep Oro Valley on a path to economic security in the future,” Forszt writes. “We need to prepare today in order to succeed tomorrow.”

It’s great to see the chamber speak out, and to do so with a vision and respect that bodes well for the Northwest.

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