Did you feel that?

There was movement, we’re sure of it. Perhaps a slight tremor, but definitely movement.

No, we’re not talking about an earthquake (although we’re coming to learn that minor quakes happen with regularity around the Duncan area). No, we’re talking about a shift in how the area does business.

Specifically, how one community wants to attract new businesses while encouraging existing businesses to improve and expand. And how to attract visitors to spend money here.

Following a report by the Arizona Office of Tourism showing how little tourism money is spent in this area, we reached out to the Graham County Chamber of Commerce (which is tasked with tourism duties thanks to receiving transient occupancy tax revenue from the City of Safford) and the Greenlee County Tourism Council to find out what each is doing to increase the number of tourists coming to the area.

We were pleased to hear that the focus is on recreational tourists — those who like to spend a few days hiking, camping, birding, etc. Pleased not because that’s our idea of a good time but because that’s exactly what this area has to offer.

Too often, “experts” try to tailor the area to a specific plan rather than use what is readily available. Sure, it can work — no one in his right mind would have thought a city focused solely on gambling would work, especially when the city is in the middle of the hottest desert in North America, and yet Las Vegas is a success — but those successes are as rare as hitting a slot machine jackpot.

It’s much better to use what’s readily at hand, and what the Gila Valley has is plenty to offer active tourists.

We hope the powers that be focus especially on Baby Boomers because that group has stayed especially active as it ages, is in or nearing retirement (which can mean midweek tourism) and has disposable income.

We’d also like to see more activities developed on Mount Graham. We understand that the ecology of the mountain, its flora and fauna, has to be protected, but that shouldn’t mean development of a series of mountain bike trails couldn’t at least be discussed with the Interior Department.

Graham County Supervisor Danny Smith recently recommended Graham and Greenlee work together to develop kayaking and tubing on the San Francisco and Gila rivers, an idea we also support.

Meanwhile, the City of Safford is rolling out a plan to incentivize business development.

We’re generally not a fan of “corporate welfare” — that along with a Byzantine tax code allowed Amazon to pay nothing in federal taxes last year despite recording $11 billion in profits in 2018 — but until we can diversify the local economy, we support the idea of helping development of more businesses, especially with a recession on the horizon.

A recession, coupled with continued tariffs and a trade war with China — the largest purchaser of copper at the moment — means we have to do something to protect ourselves against the inevitable slump that seems to hit copper prices — and resulting layoffs — every few years.

Right now, we’re in the discussion and rollout stages of these plans, but after years of inaction, it’s good to finally see something happening on the economic development front.

Kudos to Safford, Smith, the chamber and Greenlee Tourism Council for taking a proactive approach to the local economy.

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