Are greater Vail and Corona tough places for businesses to succeed? Quiznos, Choo-Choo Charlies/U-Haul, Rincon Country Store, Gary Ray’s Texas BBQ, and the Santa Rita Golf Course are just a few of businesses that have tried to be profitable in our area but ended up closing their doors. Even Pima County’s Colossal Cave Mountain Park was struggling with debt due to low revenue and recently turned over management responsibilities to a private company.
Meanwhile, Rita Ranch is seeing a business boom. Over the past 12 months Native Grill & Wings, Dunkin’ Donuts, Panda Express, and Leslie’s Pool Supplies are just a few of the many businesses that are seeing recent successes. Even the new Northwest Emergency Center in Vail is actually located 4 miles deep into Tucson. The medical center used the name of Vail, but didn’t put the complex in the area it is named after.
Brad Anderson is president of the Greater Vail Chamber of Commerce, who noted “Greater Vail is not an incorporated entity. There is no organized effort to attract business.” As to why Tucson/Rita Ranch is seeing a surge, Brad continued, “Businesses are working with a known entity in Tucson. It’s not as easy to work with the county.”
Entrepreneurs have attempted to create new businesses in our area. In 2015, developer Kelley Matthews made plans to build a ‘Bike Ranch’ resort off Old Spanish Trail.
The resort design comprised of 49 units, training facilities for cyclists, retail space, and a restaurant. 150 construction jobs would have paid $7 million in labor income. Additionally, the ranch would have employed, “80 persons, 50 on a full-time basis and 30 on a part-time basis … with direct labor income expected to be over $2.5 million per year.” The plan was opposed by Pima County administration officials. Kelley is appealing the county’s objections.
On a bigger scale, Corona residents struggle with the proposed development of the Rosemont Mine in the Santa Catalinas. According to an independent assessment by Arizona State University in November 2009, the proposed mine would create 400 direct and 1,700 indirect jobs. Hudbay Minerals spokesperson Jan Howard stated, “Hudbay’s leadership remains committed to the approval process and providing the regulatory agencies the plans and information they require. We remain optimistic the final steps of the permitting process will be accomplished in a timely manner and will help build a mine that creates jobs, complies with all environmental permits and requirements, and strengthens the local economy.” However, County Supervisor Ray Carroll opposes the, “…destructive mining development,” of the proposed Rosemont Mine on his website.
Entrepreneur Damon Overson experienced first hand some of the challenges of starting a new business in Vail. “In 2015 we were going to open a traditional coffee and tea shop that served baked goods, with a drive-thru, and a main store lobby.” Damon was set on supporting the population base in Vail, but had difficulty in finding a location. “There wasn’t a feasible location to open the physical building.”
Keith Cobb says, “It’s a challenge [for new business owners] as most businesses base their location on population.” Keith is a major realtor in the area and owner of Cobb Realty.
With Vail and Corona being so close to Tucson where there is a much larger population base, will Tucson (Rita Ranch) continue to see the benefits of new business opportunities? Brad Anderson added, “Greater Vail has so much going for it. We have excellent interstate highway access, great schools, good trade opportunities being close to Mexico, and a good base of citizens.”
The issue of limited business opportunities seems to span all areas ranging from governmental objections, small customer support base, and even a lack of infrastructure. As our communities move forward, it will be interesting to see who will take the lead and provide the spark that will allow business to flourish.