Monday, April 10, 2023

Councils Have Done Much To Build The Oro Valley Business Base But Results Have Not Happened

Economic Development continues at a slow pace
In March, the town issued seventeen single family residency permits. Also in March, there were few new business projects listed by the town. In total, businesses that are coming to Oro Valley are the same types of businesses that we reported in February.  We concluded then that most businesses that are opening in Oro Valley are focussed on serving the adult community (Read: "Oro Valley is an Adult Community")

Town Councils have tried to do much over the years to bring businesses to Oro Valley
"Rooftops strategy"
The Hiremath led councils embarked on a "grow the rooftops" strategy. The result of that strategy can be seen today with La Posada, a senior living that is is being built north of the CDO Wash, behind Home Depot. Yes. That project will bring more people to our community. But will it bring more businesses to the community or will it simply add to traffic in the area?

Two Economic Development Directors
The Winfield Council now has its second Oro Valley Economic Development Director. Neither the first Director nor the current Director have brought any significant business to our community with one exception, that being Leonardo Electronics. That company, however, has yet to break ground, though the project was announced in December of 2021. (Source: March Town of Oro Valley Economic Development Status Report.)

Easing requirements in economic enterprise zones
The Council, at the urging of former town manager Mary Jacobs and the then current Economic Development Director, eased the permitting codes ("EEZ"). That council approved blading the desert in Innovation Park to create "shovel-ready lots." The hope was that businesses would come to Oro Valley. After all, Oro Valley has an easier permitting process and land that is ready for construction. Well, that hasn't happened either.

A friendlier Planning and Zoning Department
Jacobs, under the Winfield Council, attempted to make it a bit easier for Developers to build in Oro Valley by putting the Planning and Zoning Department under the Director of Economic Development. The goals of Economic Development Department and Planning and Zoning Department are not the same. The Economic Development Department  seeks to build the commercial base of our community. The Planning and Zoning Department is supposed to make sure that whatever is built is built within code specifications. Their job is to protect the community, not to grow it.  Today, the Planning and Zoning Department tries to negotiate between residents and developers, rather than simply doing their code [and Genera Plan] enforcement job.

An example of this relates to the request of the Oro Valley Church of the Nazarene [OVCN] to rezone land next to the church at Concordia and Buena Vista so that they can build a major sports complex. The residents are united against this proposal. They have been steadfast in their position that there is no compromise that will result in their supporting that facility in that area. Yet, many times, the Planning and Zoning Department has talked with the residents, urging some sort of compromise. That is not the Planning and Zoning Department's job. Their job is to process the application in the same manner in which all such applications are processed. 

"Choose Oro Valley" Website
The town created a website that won an award from the Arizona Association of Economic Development. That website is The focus of that site is to attract bioscience companies, like Roche. It is quite comprehensive. One can see available sites and buildings and tax incentives. It displays Oro Valley's key industries.

The site falsely states that "the population of Oro Valley is balanced across all age segments." We know it is not balanced. Any business with a serious intent is going to look at the 2020 Census Data, like we did, and see that that statement is false. Indeed, even the town’s own Parks and Recreation Master Plan acknowledges that “…the town exhibits an unbalanced distribution among major age segments.”  We are an over 55 community.  Putting false information on the web sit reduces the credibility of all the information on the site.

Shovel ready sites
The first of the two Economic Development Directors convinced the Council that the reason Oro Valley was not being selected by companies was that the town had no “shovel ready sites.” These are sites that are graded without a specific site plan.  So, the town approved blading the desert in Innovation Park to do just that. This happened in September 2020.

Working with the State of Arizona
The town also receives leads from the State. None of these have panned out to date. Many of these leads seem to have more of an industrial need. Something Oro Valley doesn't want. It's important to face reality. Everybody wants clean businesses in technology. What makes Oro Valley unique? We don't know.

From Oro Valley Marketplace to Oro Valley Village Center
Last year the Council approved a bold revisioning of the failed Oro Valley Marketplace. It is call the Oro Valley Village Center. It is being revisioned on the premise that the area needs to build its own population density in order to support businesses in the center. The vision is for hotels and apartments, adding more density to the town. Nothing has happened to the Center since the approval.

The “Business Incubator”
In December of 2020  the University of Arizona opened a “business incubator” in Innovation Park to house startup companies . The hope is that one of the startups will take hold and flourish in Oro Vally, It is too soon to tell if this initiative will pay off.

Council's recent "Economic Vitality" revisit produces nothing new
Last week the Town Council held a study session on its strategic plan. "Economic Vitality" is one area they discussed. As Vice Mayor Barrett noted, the study session was an update of the existing strategy. The session was not a discussion on how to replace it.  The focus of the plan is to do the same things that the town has been doing to meet the following goals:
  • Support local businesses
  • Attract employers in key business sectors
  • Attract commercial businesses to our centers
  • Increase visitors (Via $400,000 annually given to  "Visit Tucson" to generate 28,000 hotel room nights. That's $14.29 per night.
To date, these actions have failed to produce significant tangible results
Town Councils have done much to build the business base in this town. Perhaps it is the impact of the Pandemic. Perhaps it is the impact of the three-year economic meltdown that has happened since the Pandemic. Regardless, the town has yet to see results in their efforts to bring significant new business to the community.
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