CAMP VERDE – Camp Verde has a direct connect to Interstate 17, over ten thousand households and 42.5 square miles of space, so why is there a disparity in the amount of commerce and retailers within the town compared to a neighboring town like Cottonwood?
The answer makes for a chicken-and-egg scenario. Most residents of Camp Verde have a common habit – they shop outside of town – and they do so because there are few options within town.
According to Steve Ayers, the economic and development director for the Town of Camp Verde, a prime example of retailers closing due to shoppers buying elsewhere is the ALCO that closed in 2011.
“When ALCO closed it left a mark on Camp Verde. Even Walmart, which has held options on Camp Verde property twice over the last decade, has said recently that Camp Verde’s buying habits do not support building a store in Camp Verde,” Ayers said. “How much that carries over to other retailers is yet to be seen, but it is definitely not a plus. If you don’t shop local, the consequences can be huge.”
Market leakage, or how much money residents spend in neighboring towns, comes to $46 million for Camp Verde. If the town is going to raise their retail tax base, according to a study by Retail Strategies, a firm hired by Camp Verde, “finding the specific categories where [shoppers] are leaving the market is key.”
The areas identified within the study with ample growth opportunities in Camp Verde include motor vehicle and parts dealers, home furnishings stores, health and personal care stores, and clothing stores.
The Retail Strategies firm will be contacting a minimum of 30 retailers, brokers or developers each year to look into expanding to Camp Verde.
The town hired the firm to examine market leakage, potential customer base, driving distance and competition and present what options Camp Verde has.
The firm has also identified several areas along the 260 where growth is viable.
Receiving the funding for the expansion of State Route 260 has been a major motivator in regards to retail expansion.
The SR 260 corridor west of I-17 has been considered the town’s “cash register” according to Ayers, and has major potential for commercial and retail growth that “needs to get to the front of the decision makers sooner rather than later.”
“There are municipalities all over the United States with similar demographics as Camp Verde that have a thriving retail base. There are some clear strengths that Camp Verde can play to, in spite of the challenges. We just need to realize that such a strategy is a process and will take some time to yield results,” Ayers said. “It won’t happen overnight, but it will happen as long as we stay the course.”
Ayers would argue that Camp Verde’s investments send a clear message that the town is business-friendly.
“Building a retail base for Camp Verde will not be easy. We will forever live in Cottonwood’s shadow. Some of it has to do with history: Cottonwood is where the railroad ended… It has been the commercial hub for the valley for the last century. But that doesn’t mean Camp Verde has to live in the past,” Ayers said.