Architect consult engineer on construction site

Scottsdale is a vibrant community, blessed with engaged residents and natural beauty. We enjoy high amenities and low residential property taxes. 

But we are far more than a wonderful place to live.  We are an economically robust employment hub. Our central Valley location helps fuel 18,000 businesses employing nearly 200,000 people, which is critical to supporting our lifestyle. More than half of the city’s budget is funded from sales tax revenues and only 10 percent from property taxes.

I recently spoke with three industry leaders in Scottsdale on how the COVID-19 crisis has affected their businesses, and listened to their thoughts on how to pivot and recover. 

Steve Countryman, general manager of Chapman Ford, reports that sales were actually up in April compared to last year, particularly to customers in the construction industry – which has remained active.

 Chapman Ford was able to reach more customers at home, adjust their operations to accommodate new health protocols and grow online sales and personal delivery of vehicles. Mr. Countryman says he’s been “optimistically surprised.”  They are learning to do more with less, and thinking creatively about operations.

Bill Callahan, president/CEO of Arizona Bank and Trust, says retail business has shifted but not declined. Arizona Bank and Trust has transitioned to drive-through tellers and electronic banking, which is now 75 percent of their transactions. 

Commercial banking employees are working successfully from home. They were able to process over 4,000 PPP loans for $1.5 billion – all remotely. They expect to continue de-emphasizing brick and mortar stores.  

Callahan says the city can help the recovery by moving forward with the infrastructure projects in the recent bond approvals, especially while interest rates are so low, to stimulate the local economy and create jobs. 

Ronen Aviram, general manager of the Hotel Valley Ho, saw a 93 percent drop in revenue for April. They furloughed 85 percent of staff but brought them back with PPP loans. They have used the downtime to renovate, re-train staff on safety protocols, deep clean and reset. Pools are now open and guests are trickling back but meeting reservations are still down. 

Aviram says the city can help restore the hotel industry by offering the best possible product. We need to continually evolve to attract tourists, offering a unique experience, not just the sun. Downtown has stagnant areas that have to be activated.

Callahan sees the future direction in developing more recession-proof industries, growing and innovating along the Cure Corridor and finding ways to attract younger families to our community to improve our financial demographics. It’s important to pay attention to the different sectors in our city in order to attract younger people.

Aviram says his hotel chose Scottsdale for the positive business environment; the unique blend of urban and suburban, vertical and horizontal public spaces. He thinks an answer lies in more business and community support of the labor market, partnering with institutions like SCC to develop vocational training and provide jobs upon graduation tailored to skills.

The full interview can be viewed at tammycaputi.com under “News & Events.”

The crisis should be teaching us that we must be visionary and look at things in a different way.  Our quality of life depends on tourism and economic activity, which is generated from a few very small geographic areas. 

Scottsdale cannot stay still. We can’t bubble wrap the city and close our eyes; the future is ours to create. 

-Tammy Caputi