It is a pleasure to introduce myself to the residents of the Town of Oro Valley. I’ve been working as the director of Community and Economic Development Department since Jan. 4, 2021, but I can honestly tell you that time has passed quickly as I jumped feet first into my new role.
I learned early on in my public sector career the value of collaboration and adaptability, and I firmly believe that having stakeholders actively participate in community development provides for well-planned, well-defined and well-supported projects. Cities, communities and regions have unique relationships that create strong partnerships—partnerships required to be competitive in state and world markets.
I started my career in the border town of San Luis, Arizona, as Parks and Recreation director, then took a promotion to assistant city administrator. Working in a small city allowed me the opportunity to oversee the development of the city’s first General and Focused Future Economic Development and Infrastructure Development plans. Important growth strategies for the city included industrial park expansions to allow for business expansion and recruitment, strategic annexations and acquiring federal and state land for infrastructure projects.
Most recently, I worked for Yuma County as planning and zoning director, deputy county administrator and director of economic development and intergovernmental affairs. The county primarily supported regional economic and community development by addressing community and infrastructure needs through regional planning. As you might have expected in a rural county, expanding road and broadband infrastructures were community development priorities, and much of my time was spent advocating for legislative and financial support for these initiatives.
My transition to this position has been aided by the welcome that I’ve received from Town staff and the community. The Town Council, Town Manager Mary Jacobs and the executive staff have made me feel welcome and a valued part of the team. I am also blessed with experienced, knowledgeable leaders in the Community and Economic Development Department who have helped me get up to speed on key projects and provided important community background.
Oro Valley Chamber of Commerce President/CEO Dave Perry has made sure I’m being introduced to a variety of residents and community businesses. I’ve met key industry leaders from Roche Tissue Diagnostics, Innovation Park, the UArizona Tech Park Incubator, Sun Corridor, Visit Tucson, and members of the business and development community. These meetings have led me to understand that everyone wants Oro Valley to succeed and feels a personal responsibility to see it happen.
An advantage of starting work in January is that I am able to participate in developing the Town’s FY21-22 Budget and two year Strategic Leadership Plan. The department’s budget priorities focus on both community and economic development. For community development, the focus will be to ensure staff has sufficient resources to process construction and permit applications so that contractors can keep building at a pace that meets their needs. For economic development, the department’s budget will focus on identifying retail recruitment priorities and developing market strategies to attract those businesses.
My team and I are already hard at work. In the short term, we have established 30/60/90 day objectives to ensure the continued support of local business sustainability and expansion while preparing for local business expansion and new prior employer recruitment.
While I may be new to Oro Valley, residents can rest assured that my philosophy for community and economic development will be rooted in the Town’s General Plan and Comprehensive Economic Development Strategies (CEDS). The CEDS emphasizes primary employment growth through recruiting businesses that have an association with local bioscience, aerospace, and high-tech companies, creating clusters of these types of employers. In turn, the General Plan serves to establish zoning and code recommendations that create compatible areas where the Town can locate these primary employers.
Taking on a new job can be a challenging experience, particularly if it requires moving to a new community. Here in Oro Valley, I’ve been able to learn much about the Town because its proud residents are eager to tell me why they love living and working here! To broaden my understanding of the Town’s rich heritage, I am excited to learn more regarding Oro Valley’s cultural history and unique community and natural attributes. Understanding the Town’s history will help me understand resident, business and employment needs as we plan together for the Town’s future.
Paul Melcher is director of Oro Valley’s Community and Economic Development Department.