Town of Camp Verde Economic Development Specialist Sebra Choe beamed as she surveyed the crowd gathered at JT Bistro on Feb. 8 for a business mixer sponsored by the town and nonprofits Local First AZ and Camp Verde Business Alliance.
“I think we just threw the biggest party in Camp Verde, ever,” Choe said, moving from table to table to welcome newcomers and talk up the town’s efforts to promote business development and long-term sustainability.
JT Bistro was packed, loud with discussion and announcements about businesses, raffles and upcoming events. Past 5 p.m., if you were looking for a parking space in the plaza outside, you were out of luck.
“We want Main Street to thrive again,” Julie Scott, President of Camp Verde Business Alliance, said, adding that the alliance had recently been founded and received its nonprofit status in order to meet the needs of Camp Verde’s business owners.
“We got together because we really want our businesses to grow,” Scott said, espousing collaboration and knowledge sharing among entrepreneurs. “We feel like your needs could be met better .... When you guys say, ‘I’m barely making it,’ we want to help.”
According to Scott, the perception exists that the town is not “around to help,” but she insisted that Camp Verde is increasingly working with business owners to make getting assistance easier. Organizations like the alliance and Local First AZ also help with educating business owners.
“The town is here to support you,” Scott said.
“We had about 70 business owners RSVP,” Ruth Ellen Elinski, Northern Arizona Director for Local First AZ, said, adding that she would like to see businesses increasingly work together to provide services and source their products locally.
“The small businesses in our community are the heart and soul of why we’re here,” Linda Buchanan, Yavapai College Verde Valley Campus Community Education Director, said. “I’m here seeing if people with subject matter expertise might want to teach at the college.”
Jan Marc Quisumbing, owner of The Janimal Draws comic book production company, said, “I’m a strong believer in local first, and if you can support one it’s great .... Even if I have to pay a bit more, it’s OK.”