Carefree’s economic development begs for action

After waiting years, it’s somewhat promising to see that the Carefree downtown core has 2 new projects happening, the new condos and the Hampton Inn (albeit very slow progress) but it’s progress. What is concerning is the existing small business environment and how it will survive the post pandemic threat.

Recent stats* show that retail and accommodations have been the hardest hit during this pandemic and e-commerce has shifted upwards of 50 to 500%. The “buy local” pre-pandemic conversation has shifted dramatically and it’s not in a small town’s favor. Carefree could benefit from a variety of business that aren’t 100% reliable on retail.
The businesses have been begging for a business “vitality” plan from the town for years and really could have benefited from a 5-10 year strategy before the pandemic. With that said, it’s 20 years long overdue.
It’s no secret that Cave Creek’s business attraction has been driven purely by organic marketing and themed events, which not only draws more eyeballs but has attracted well known trusted brands such as Oregano’s and Sprouts, who by the way, were initially looking to locate in Carefree.

For years it’s been an uphill battle for Carefree due to the lackadaisical landlords (80% of them), little commercial land and functionally obsolete buildings that stay vacant for years.

This by no means is meant to offend the current hardworking, day-to-day small business owners in Carefree that pay rent to these landlords, but history has shown it’s been a very rough road. Small businesses can’t survive without building a regular customer base and having the skills to compete in the digital age.

Mayor Peterson shared months ago the town is no longer focusing on marketing and now they are putting their efforts into economic development BUT the two strategies go hand-in-hand.

Digital marketing and communications is the backbone of a successful brand in today’s market. A town can never have too much communication between its constituents. Communication is key with all stakeholders, and during a pandemic it begs for more communication. Business owners and residents want to hear more about how they can assist in “business vitality” as this pandemic slowly eases up.

So I ask the Carefree Council and town administration to get focused, start taking “action” and move the economic needle once and for all before another business decides to move to Cave Creek.

Carefree Maven since 2004