Kay Phillips for the Sierra Vista Herald
This month, the Arizona Regional Economic Development Foundation (AREDF) debuts its Business Retention and Expansion Program. Tailored for local business owners in all sectors, this pilot program includes one-on-one coaching, as well as guest speakers lecturing on marketing, finances, human resources and more.
The free program kicks off on May 23. All classes will be held at the Innovation Center located in Haymore Plaza. The program last for one year and has a monthly mandatory attendance requirement.
The Business Retention and Expansion Program is a partnership between the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) and the AREDF.
Interested business owners can contact the SBDC or AREDF to fill out a short business assessment questionnaire. Rather than serving as criteria for acceptance, Jones-Martinez said those answers will be used to help further develop the program’s curriculum. She also took time to explain the importance of retaining business in town versus attracting new business.
“Attracting new business is great. But when that business or company comes to town, they could bring their employees with them. The issue is when that company goes, so might the people,” she said.
She goes on to say, “This program addresses unemployment here. We are helping our business community grow with the people we already have.”
Natecia Daniel is the owner of the Sierra Vista-based Bati’Mamselle Boutique and expresses frustration with a perceived lack of focus on local business.
“They’re so focused on the Fort that they’re ignoring the people who’re invested in the community,” she said. Daniels, a Sierra Vista native, remembers when that wasn’t always the case.
“At one point, we had a thriving small business community. Somewhere along the line, the focus shifted away from us,” she said.
The AREDF hopes the new Business Retention and Expansion Program attracts local businesses of all types and sizes.
“We already have a huge range of businesses that are involved, all of whom are trying to take it to the next level,” said Jones-Martinez.
Small business owner Veronica Squyres works closely with the AREDF while continuing to grow her business Feel Well, Sleep Well.
“Their basic support to start-ups is fantastic,” said Squyres, referencing the Foundation’s reduced rent, fully equipped business complex on Bartow Drive. “When you’re a new business, keeping overhead low is key. The AREDF ensures we can start bringing in revenue quicker.”
Jones-Martinez said the foundation also hopes to inspire small business owners to step outside their comfort zones by networking and collaborating with their fellow entrepreneurs.
Daniels, however, insists better cooperation is needed between the city, the Chamber of Commerce, and local business owners.
“From my perspective, why would people want to shop in Sierra Vista when the city isn’t promoting shopping here?” asks Daniel. “If the city and chamber got involved with a Shop Small Sierra Vista campaign, it could prevent people from going up the road to Tucson or Bisbee to shop on weekends.
“I would love to see the city put up billboards on the main thoroughfares that say ‘Shop Small Sierra Vista.’
“How hard is that?”
While billboards may not be in the works, Jones-Martinez said the foundation is doing what it can to help Sierra Vista’s small businesses survive.
“Given the town’s downward economic trend, we’re focused on helping our businesses hold out and weather the storm,” she said.
For program application information, contact the Small Business Development Center at 520-515-5478 or the Arizona Regional Economic Development Foundation at 520-458-6948.