OV Town Talk: The next steps in local business recovery
Published on January 20, 2022
OV Town Talk: The next steps in local business recovery
By Paul Melcher, Director of Community and Economic Development, Town of Oro Valley
Support of the business community must be more than a vague promise of responsiveness and attention: it requires a definitive plan to understand that community’s needs, take specific actions to address them, and collaborate to monitor results. This is especially true in a time when our community and our nation are still working to recover and rebuild from the economic impacts of COVID-19.
During the first year of the pandemic, the Town of Oro Valley enhanced its already robust business support strategies via the OVSafeSteps program. Responding to business challenges of operating with business restrictions, the Town distributed nearly $1,000,000 in financial assistance (made available through CARES Act dollars) to local businesses with 50 or fewer employees for PPE reimbursement, marketing cost reimbursement, IT and marketing coaching, and business support. The relationships we built and the momentum we generated through this program were so successful, we wanted to make certain that even when the funding ran out, we were still working to maintain those relationships and continue supporting local businesses in Oro Valley.
Capitalizing on the momentum from OV Safe Steps and looking to a post-pandemic economy, the Town has created a more formal business support strategy: OV Next Steps. Strategy details, which I’ll discuss in further detail below, include broadening of our existing Business Retention and Expansion Program; increased communication with local businesses; and partnering with our Chamber of Commerce to sponsor an annual Business Summit.
Our Business Retention and Expansion Program includes Town staff visiting businesses every Monday—oftentimes accompanied by Councilmembers and Oro Valley Chamber of Commerce staff. Our goal, as Community and Economic Development staff, is to visit at least 200 businesses each year. Having members of Council along during the visit allows business owners a personal opportunity to provide insights into what things are impacting busing operations. As a complement to the personal visits, staff will be conducting annual business surveys to get additional information regarding workforce, business viability and resiliency, and other factors impacting Oro Valley businesses.
These business visits, along with business and community surveys, have yielded actionable information. For example, as a result of business and community feedback, Oro Valley Town Council recently approved amendments to the Town Code related to parking, which included a provision to allow for permanent expanded outdoor seating in parking lots and to recognize changing parking needs based on consumers picking up both retail and restaurant orders. Additionally, in response to business owner and customer comments that certain types of signs are effective and that certain confusing provisions need to be simplified, the Planning Division staff is working to create a proposal to amend the Town’s sign code.
Our OV Safe Steps outreach efforts resulted in an updated and expanded business email database that has enabled us to improve our communication efforts, notifying businesses about resources, events and support services available to them.
Lastly, partnering with the Oro Valley Chamber of Commerce to sponsor an annual Business Summit is an additional means of engaging with and hearing from the business community, fostering business owner collaboration, networking and idea generation. The first annual Business Summit took place January 6, and was attended by more than 80 local business leaders. That’s a great start for a first-time event! The Summit agenda included marketing, branding, and workforce sessions. Topics were selected based on feedback from business assistance surveys and visits.
Critical to the success of a community-wide effort to support local business is an active and well-respected Chamber of Commerce. The Town’s ongoing partnership with the Oro Valley Chamber of Commerce stands as testimony to a shared vision and authentic partnership. The OV Chamber has been instrumental in our efforts, both pre- and post-pandemic.
As I bring this article to a close, I am reminded that some residents may still be wondering why local government is so invested in supporting local business. Chamber President/CEO Dave Perry is often asked the same question, to which he aptly responds:
Our Chamber believes business success and community well-being walk hand-in-hand. Strong communities need healthy businesses; business is better when Oro Valley residents are thriving. The further result is that when all is well, government has the sufficient revenues to provide the services we all enjoy in Oro Valley—outstanding public safety, good roads, adequate and safe drinking water, superior parks, recreation and trails. Town staff, the mayor and council recognize that it’s all connected. When business is good and residents thrive, everyone benefits.
That is why our OV Next Steps strategies are so important in a time of economic recovery. And don’t forget that each of us, whether we live or work here in Oro Valley, have an opportunity to contribute to our community’s success by shopping locally.
Oro Valley as a community is experiencing renewed prosperity because of the unique and collaborative relationship between the Town and local businesses. Not wanting to take the business community for granted, members of the Town Council and staff are committed to furthering this relationship by creating strategies that build on the lessons learned during the beginning of the pandemic. We are creating outreach and action plans based on business needs, and we’re collaborating to create strategies that promote future success of our businesses, and thereby, success of Oro Valley.