Although many businesses are going to be adversely affected by the Ina Road Project, there are plenty of tools to help them through the project that will keep the on and off ramps at Ina and I-10 closed for two years.
The Town of Marana and the Marana Chamber of Commerce have done quite a bit to aid those businesses, but the Regional Transportation Authority (RTA) has also been trying to help those businesses since the project was first announced years ago.
The RTA created the MainStreet Business Assistance Program to help businesses affected by RTA construction projects and the program has been reaching out to businesses on and around Ina who could face hardships from the project. When the RTA was approved in 2006, part of the $2.1 billion project was $10 million set aside for small business assistance to help businesses affected by the transportation improvement projects in the RTA plan.
Jan Waukon, the outreach liaison for the program, said that over 6,000 businesses have been helped by the program and that she personally has visited every eligible business in the area.
One of the biggest aspects of the project is third-party consulting, which is able to assist the businesses prior to and during construction, and put the business in the position to be more successful post construction. Waukon said over 600 businesses in the region have received the consulting services.
“Our program offers private and confidential consulting services from expert consultants,” Waukon said. “We will do everything from marketing strategies to financial analysis.”
Businesses are eligible for 70 hours of private consulting, which by RTA estimates could normally run businesses upwards of $10,000.
Among the services offered are personalized mapping, which lets businesses let customers know the best routes to take to the business to avoid construction, and design services to help create signs to take advantage of Marana’s relaxed sign. Waukon estimates 30 businesses in the area have taken advantage of the consulting, more than 100 have gotten personalized maps and a handful have used the sign designers. Over 180 businesses have put themselves on an e-mail list that is used to give a variety of updates on the project.
“Walking door to door to keep people up to date in the moment is not as easy as it might appear,” Waukon said.
She also stressed that taking advantage of the ADOT and RTA’s websites and signing up for traffic alerts is vital to staying up to date on the project and Marana offers their ProjectIna app to help keep the public and business owners up to date.
With projections saying drive-by traffic could be reduced by as much as 80 percent in the area, some businesses are obviously concerned.
“Some people are out and out afraid, some people are angry and some people are excited, feeling this is long overdue,” Waukon said. “The range of emotions are significant. Some businesses are going to be severely affected by this project, there is no magic answer. Others not so much, they have a good, strong client base to begin with. Some are more affected by drive-by traffic loss than others.”
Waukon also mentioned they may hold workshops for businesses on things like social media.
There could be an added benefit of the Ina Road Project. The free consulting can not only help businesses survive the construction project, but to help strengthen a business when the project is completed.
“We will focus on either thing, or both, strategies for this project or your overall business health,” Waukon said. “It works well.”
For more information, visit www.mainstreetinfo.org.