Although we seem to be through the worst of the pandemic, it is important to not forget the loss and suffering that many members of our Scottsdale community, our neighbors, our families, friends and colleagues all faced during these trying times.
It is also important to recognize the work and contributions made by our neighbors, our business community and yes, our local government.
Government in general, including local government, too often gets a bad rap.
Sometimes it is deserved, and sometimes not. I believe in finding common ground and good in our neighbors.
Scottsdale is blessed to have so many individuals willing to step up to the plate and volunteer their time to help their community and this was never more evident than in our response to the pandemic.
Over 37 years ago the Scottsdale City Council had the foresight to establish the Scottsdale Industrial Development Authority, a non-profit organization whose mission includes responsible economic development through business retention, expansion and attraction.
This public body spurs economic development by approving tax-exempt bond financing projects that benefit the city of Scottsdale, among other things. I am honored to have served a six-year term on the IDA Board and as chairman of this important Scottsdale institution.
The IDA is authorized by city mandate and state law to use the revenues generated through servicing fees on the bond financings, and to earmark that revenue for community support programs who share a similar mission to the IDA — sensible economic development and job creation.
When COVID-19 hit Scottsdale, the IDA Board was as unprepared as anyone else, but we knew our business community and our neighbors were suffering, and we all wanted to do our part to address this crisis.
The Scottsdale IDA provided meaningful financial assistance to small businesses as financial ramifications of COVID-19 decimated our small business community. Scottsdale is an international tourist destination and we were hit particularly hard as our hotels, restaurants, entertainment venues and small boutiques remained empty for months, with no end in sight.
Taking action, the Scottsdale IDA voted unanimously to approve $200,000 of funding to give in a series of $5,000 grants to local small businesses in need.
We had to hold meetings over the phone as all city entities practiced social distancing amid statewide stay-at-home orders.
My fellow IDA Board members were committed to doing our part to help our neighbors and the small business community we care so deeply about. After some careful, and emotional deliberation we authorized this action. Our mission is economic development, and we all agreed that our first duty was to help our existing small businesses.
We took this action because the federal response, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act — also known as the CARES Act — did not adequately support local destination businesses with 0-100 employees. There was a gap in the lifeline and the Scottsdale IDA stepped up to the plate to help fill that gap.
Only 9% of federal stimulus payments had been made for accommodations and food services, and Arizona ranked in the bottom 50% of states for federal Paycheck Protection Program funding disbursement. The situation was dire and the cavalry wasn’t coming.
The grant program was first proposed to be $100,000, but after our board deliberated we agreed to double the program by rolling a future year’s funds over for 2020. The small business community was in need and we made a decision to help by doubling the amount of grant money to $200,000.
Five thousand dollars for each business doesn’t seem like a lot of money, but for many of our businesses it was a much needed lifeline that helped them keep their doors open a little while longer, until they were able to stabilize or transition into new business models. For example, many of our local restaurants went from in person dining to take-out and the IDA assistance helped in that process.
Through this partnership between the Scottsdale IDA and our local small businesses, I would like to think we got through it better than we otherwise would have. I have heard many stories from our small businesses on how this program positively impacted Scottsdale.
My only regret is that we didn’t have more resources to help our community.
Scottsdale residents need to know that your city government can have a positive and meaningful impact on the city and our quality of life. It can be a tool for good economic development and it can be a lifeline to our struggling neighbors and residents when, through no fault of their own, economic adversity strikes in the form of a pandemic.
I’ve served in many capacities in my time volunteering for the city, but this was the most meaningful vote I have ever had the opportunity to make. I hope we never have another situation like this, but government working to help our small businesses and neighbors is a positive reflection of our entire community.
Editor’s Note: Tim Stratton is a Scottsdale resident, government finance expert, attorney, small business owner and currently serves on the City Scottsdale Board of Zoning Adjustment. Stratton is also the former chair of the city of Scottsdale IDA and currently serves as a member of the State Board of Charter Schools and was appointed to that body by the Governor and confirmed by the Arizona Senate.