In terms of local efforts to improve the economic environment at large, a number of events have occurred in the community during the last few months. Before jumping into the details, here is a little overview of how Business Retention and Expansion (BR&E) works in Flagstaff. The City of Flagstaff has an office dedicated to working with all existing businesses, entrepreneurs and startups to help them stay here and grow here. This is no small task in a growing global economy with challenges from numerous directions; a task accomplished without a bucket of cash and without a magic wand!
The BR&E office works closely with the Economic Collaborative of Northern Arizona (ECoNA) and a number of other local partners to leverage the strong network of economic development practitioners and the business community. The ECoNA BR&E team is comprised of members of the Greater Flagstaff Chamber of Commerce, Coconino County Career Center, APS, the City of Flagstaff and the Flagstaff Downtown Business Alliance. Private businesses that participate in the ECoNA BR&E Team are Nordstrom & Associates and Boulder Realty Advisors. In practice, this works as the City of Flagstaff’s BR&E office chairs the ECoNA BR&E Team, which meets monthly to discuss the latest challenges and opportunities. As the ECoNA BR&E team identifies those challenges and opportunities, the Goodwill Business Services team is deployed to develop and implement solutions. With that as a brief background to the economic development framework, here are a couple events that developed as a result of this network of people and partners working together.
May often finds people preparing for summer as students are wrapping up their school year. In May of this year, the Business Services Team held the first Auto Technician Pipeline – Enhanced Connectivity Event. The event was a direct result of an ECoNA BR&E team meeting that occurred back in July of 2016. At that meeting, the team learned firsthand that the automotive shops have difficulty finding qualified technicians. The Business Services team jumped into action by surveying other automotive shops in Flagstaff to learn more on the topic. The Business Services team then reached out to the school district automotive teachers and to the Coconino Community College. It was during the interaction with the educators that the team discovered the issue and the solution: if the workforce pipeline was in place, perhaps the pipeline only needed an enhancement. The Business Service team worked with the educators to invite some of the students to sit on a panel to discuss their experience and aspirations. The team also invited numerous automotive shop managers so they could engage the students who are the future employees of tomorrow. The net result of the event connected the employers with the employees of the future. By putting a face to the names, the students and businesses have connected in a meaningful way.
June typically finds people travelling around the country and the world, as summer is in full swing. The Business Services team instead held their first Employer Resource Event. The event was a result of many local businesses expressing concern about changing economic conditions. For the record, many services, consultants and economic development practitioners were hearing the same concerns and acted as well. Regarding the Business Services team, we surveyed many local businesses to learn not only concerns, but their interest in learning about local resources and programs that may help them to conduct their business with greater efficiency. As the team pored over the results of the survey, they began to compile a list of programs and partners and the idea was born to hold the Employer Resource Event. In June, the first Employer Resource Event welcomed more than a dozen businesses to learn about opportunities ranging from tax credit programs to employee training to funding for internships and much more.
The world of Business Retention and Expansion is often a world of activity behind the scenes. However, that world has been active over the last few months with the Business Services team helping businesses stay here and grow here. FBN
By John Saltonstall
John Saltonstall is the Business Retention and Expansion Manager for the City of Flagstaff. For more information, contact John Saltonstall directly at 928-213-2966.