VERDE VALLEY - Three years ago a group of volunteers from area chambers of commerce saw a compelling need to look at economic development from a regional perspective.
From that idea was born VVREO (pronounced Vee Vee Rio), the Verde Valley Regional Economic Organization.
Unlike many economic development groups, VVREO approached the idea of growing the valley's economy not from the means, but from the ends.
"When people hear the word development they think, 'oh my God, they are going to come in here start building stuff,'" says VVREO's vice chairman Lita Cox. "That's really not what it's about.
"We started by asking what is the flavor of each community and then make sure we keep that flavor. We also look at it from the big picture, believing that whatever we bring here has to benefit everyone."
To date, VVREO has lived up to that promise.
Since 2007, they have provided nourishment to a number of economic engines, including the Verde Valley Wine Consortium, a group that has helped put the valley's nascent wine industry on the world stage, in very short order.
They have also helped form groups to promote local agriculture, renewable energy, broadband Internet service and the creation of an enterprise zone.
"We have been much more proactive than reactive. If you're not, then businesses show up by default, which may or may not reflect your community's vision. People come here for the valley's uniqueness, not for another McDonald's," Cox says.
While many economic development organizations across the state have taken a beating of late, many of them dissolving, VVREO has continued to grow and begun to make waves among those who do what they do.
Last month VVREO picked up a Best Small Organization of the Year award from the Arizona Association of Economic Developers.
"The great part of the award is that others are seeing what we are doing and taking notice. That's the best compliment you can have. We are only considered small because we are in the rural part of the state," says VVREO Chairman Robyn Prud'homme-Bauer.
With a proven track record and recognition for their abilities, VVREO is now expanding its presence valley wide.
Last month they were recognized as the Verde Valley's official economic development organization by Yavapai County. Their next step will be to take their message to each of the valley's communities.
"We will be visiting the various city and town councils in the valley, asking for a resolution of support naming VVREO as the regional economic organization. It will give us strength as we continue to move forward," says Prud'homme-Bauer.