While much of the Verde Valley is rural and not as densely populated as neighboring communities on the other side of the mountain, its economic impact to the region should not be underestimated.
The Verde Valley makes up roughly 32 percent of the population in Yavapai County and nearly 40 percent of business establishments.
According to a 2018 Verde Valley Regional Economic Development Organization report, the labor force increased between 2000 and 2011 but slightly decreased in 2016 from 29,614 to 28,293.
White collar occupations such as management, sales and administrative support make up more than half the labor force. This is pretty much on par with Yavapai County but below the state average which has a 60.7 percent white-collar labor force.
The report shows blue-collar occupations such as construction, farming and transportation making up around 19 percent of the labor force. This is slightly below the county, for which blue-collar work force makes up 21 percent but above the state at 18.9 percent.
Service jobs also make up a large chunk of the labor force in the Verde Valley at 26.6 percent.
The report states that employment in the Verde Valley is highly concentrated in services that include: education, health and social services; arts, entertainment, recreation, accommodation and food services; administrative; and food services.
“When comparing the mix of employment to the county and state, the Verde Valley has a greater percentage of jobs in construction, but lags in manufacturing,” the report states.
According to VVREO, sectors signaling the highest potential for growth in the Verde Valley are healthcare; agriculture and food processing; hospitality and tourism; and advanced manufacturing.
Agriculture and tourism have been boosted by the wine industry, the fastest growing industry, according to VVREO.
The wine industry in the Verde Valley first emerged in the early 2000s with Page Spring Cellars. In 2008, the Verde Valley Wine Consortium was established and later started offering viticulture classes at Yavapai College. The Southwest Wine Center first opened in Clarkdale at the Yavapai College campus.
According to Paula Woosley, wine educator and president of the Verde Valley Wine Consortium, there are 27 wineries in the Verde Valley Wine Trail Map and 23 tasting rooms.
The industry is getting attention from around the world and has become quite vogue. In an Aug. 29 article on www.vogue.com, the Verde Valley was named one of the top seven emerging wine industries in America.
The VVREO report notes that “wine industry” is broadly defined and includes both production and tourism; one of which is agritourism, or agriculturally-focused tourism. The United States Department of Agriculture pegged agritourism at $704 million in 2012, a 25 percent increase in five years.
“While the number of acres of grapes planted and tons of wine grapes harvested in the Verde Valley is relatively small, wine grapes and wines are an emerging industry segment with a great potential for agritourism,” the VVREO report states.
According to VVREO, there are 130 acres of vineyards in the Verde Valley. It also reports 325 tons of grapes harvested, 20,475 cases produced and $58.1 million in wine-related expenditures.
The wine industry, while still in its infancy, continues to grow, according to VVREO findings.
“Like other wine regions, the Verde Valley has to safeguard against regulations that stymie growth of the industry, such as elimination of grape acres or regulations around tourism that damage opportunities for small wineries to sell direct,” the report states.