Wednesday, October 29, 2014

News You Can Use



The credit/debit card industry has had a lot of changes lately and that has resulted in much confusion and misinformation. This combination is ripe for fraud and scams. Please don’t waste your money. Knowledge is your best defense.

  1. Industry digital conversion. Yes, the industry is going all digital but NOT instantly. Many older counter top machines are now obsolete...but operational. They will not be serviced, downloaded or rebooted but WILL remain working until they fail. Only then will the merchant be required to get a newer machine. Planning for replacement is a good idea. New digital machines run from about $400 to $600 for counter top with wireless adding another $100 to $150.  Fear mongers are pushing machines for nearly twice that!
  2. Chip cards ARE coming. This is also known as EMV conversion. The credit card with a chip in it is far more secure than the brown strip version. Europe and Canada have long proven its value. Neither the machine nor card manufacturers can make enough to convert quickly. The transition will take place over the next couple of years with Oct 2015 as the initial target date. New machines and readers will have a slot to insert the chip card as well as the known slot for magnetic cards. Initially, US chip cards will have both the chip and strip. This will allow for a more orderly change over as older analog machines (see #1 above) are replaced in the next several years. After 2015, strip reader machines will continue to work but breach protection will be absent. 
  3. Credit card rates are getting more competitive. Value added services such as gift cards, ATMs, text messaging, online systems, wireless in store systems, and cash advances are showing up as additional offerings. 
  4. As part of the more competitive nature, the older more costly tiered pricing system (usually 3 tiered) is giving way to the more competitive cost plus pricing system also known as interchange plus. Cost plus is a bit more difficult to show quickly but reduces total costs dramatically. This is the only pricing all big box stores use. An informed ISO (Independent Sales Organization) sales rep can explain it clearly and demonstrate its profit potential to a merchant.


The key issue will ever more be the knowledge of the sale rep from the ISO. Banks and warehouse stores continue to sell merchant services but as tiered pricing with no service rep available. Let’s face it, when you mix people, computers and money, it’s not a matter of ‘if’ issues arise, it is a matter of ‘when’. A knowledgeable rep will be invaluable in keeping these issues from becoming significant problems.

For questions call Chamber member Bear Thomas at Merchant Solutions International, Inc. in Williams, AZ at 602-910-0500.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Tourist Home Urban Market Opens for Business


FLAGSTAFF – AZ. For the first time in decades, the Tourist Home will illuminate the neon sign hovering above the San Francisco Street sidewalk in Flagstaff’s Southside, and open its doors to locals and visitors once more. A former boarding house for immigrant Basque sheepherders whose travels through Flagstaff once were widespread, the building has been sitting dormant; boarded up and decaying for the last 40-plus years. It wasn't until visions for its revitalization and re-purposing were met with strategy and partnerships, did progress begin for the Heinonen cousins and new business partner, Chris Kemmerly of Miramonte Homes.
A natural extension of its sibling restaurant and bar businesses – Tinderbox Kitchen and Annex – Tourist Home Urban Market (THUM) will represent the retail arm of the three. Part storefront, part restaurant, part local hub, THUM provides counter service offering chef-driven foods, pre-packaged or made-to-order. Menu items include hot breakfast items and pastries, gourmet packaged foods, house charcuterie, chef-butchered steaks and chops, domestic cheeses, prepared-to-order sandwiches, plus an assortment of soups and salads. All foods are made on-premises and intentionally kept simple with no more than five ingredients. Drinks include fair-trade coffees, juices, sodas, beer and wine.
“We kept the integrity and style from the Tinderbox and Annex and implemented that quality into the market,” said Dara Wong, general manager, “It allows T-Box fans to access many of the specialty foods, meats, cheeses and wines we have at the restaurant, but in a one-stop- shop fashion, including made-to-order counter-service meals.”
The historic preservation and architectural efforts; local craftsmanship; and artistic vision that aligned to create Tourist Home Urban Market, did so in an unprecedented and synergistic way. The owners and staff are eager to share the building’s story and contribute to the next chapters in its history.
Tourist Home Urban Market, located at 52 S. San Francisco St., will open its doors for business on Thursday, Oct. 23 at 6 a.m. Hours and days of operation are 6 a.m. - 6 p.m., seven days a week. More information at 928-779-2811 or 928-226-8400.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Props 406, 403 aim to repair streets and increase safety


The Greater Flagstaff Chamber of Commerce recognizes that transportation infrastructure in our region is in critical need of repair and ongoing maintenance. Funding through Federal
resources is lacking and a solution that will adequately address our needs is unlikely. Arizona’s Highway User Revenue Fund (HURF) is continually being swept, reducing the already minimal share our city sees from that funding source. The lack of funding support from our state and federal resources necessitates a local solution. Both the City and County have proposed increases to our sales tax in order to repair, improve and maintain our road system.

The City’s Prop 406 – Road Repair & Street Safety raises the sales tax one third of one percent (.033%) or 33 cents per $100 purchase. The County’s Prop 403 – Coconino County
Road Maintenance Tax raises sales taxes three tenths of one percent or 30 cents on a $100 purchase.
This would go into affect while the existing Coconino Parks & Open Space tax expires. The net increase would be reduced to 17.5 cents on a $100 purchase.

These initiatives would bring our sales tax rate from 8.446% to 8.951% or 50.5 cents per $100. It would be in effect for 20 years and fund approximately $12 to $13 million for needed repairs and maintenance.

The propositions are the result of a two year process with significant input from diverse groups within the community. There have been two voter surveys, a Citizens Transportation Advisory Committee (CTAC) comprised of various community leaders, and independent road evaluations.

The results of the 1,200 voters surveyed indicate overwhelming support (69%) for a tax increase now vs. paying more later for future repairs. The CTAC recommended a sales tax increase to fund these core services. Kimmley-Horn and Associates provided the independent assessment, finding that 35% of the County paved roads are in poor or severe condition.

The City of Flagstaff and Coconino County have stated that without the significant revenue this initiative will provide services will be at risk. The negative impact on tourism and the business community is too great to ignore. It is a public safety and an economic development imperative that our roads are properly maintained.

The Chamber is cognizant that the idea of raising our local sales taxes to fund road repair is a difficult proposition. Unfortunately, our two choices are to let our roads fall into further disrepair or fund improvements ourselves.

Registered voters have the opportunity to decide to fund better roads in the upcoming general election on November 4, 2014.
For more information, visit www.coconino.az.gov/countyroads and www.flagstaff.az.gov/roadsafety.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Blinded by the Light: a Dark Skies Summit

On August 18-19 the Keystone Center hosted a Dark Skies Summit to explore common solutions to the growing threat from the proliferation of white and poorly-filtered LED outdoor lighting in this region.

The value of our Dark Skies City designation cannot be underestimated to sustain and grow our
deep scientific and astronomy communities.

The Greater Flagstaff Chamber of Commerce participated along with collaborative partners Lowell
Observatory, the City of Flagstaff and NAU.

The importance of preserving our Dark Skies as it relates to regional economic development
through the use of emerging technologies and it’s importance to our tourism industry was discussed.
Public policy, balancing lighting standards and public safety while incorporating cost effective new
technology to preserve our dark skies will all continue to be important work at the Chamber on
behalf of this region. For more information please go to Lowell.edu and Keystone.org

Business Leaders Meet New NAU President

At the end of August, Chamber board members, ambassadors and other community members gave a warm welcome to NAU’s new president, Dr. Rita Cheng.

The Chamber has always believed in the importance of a strong partnership between the business community and NAU, which is why President and CEO Julie Pastrick invited the new university president to the Chamber’s board meeting.

Dr. Cheng spoke about both her career and personal history, as well as her exciting plans for the future of NAU, building on John Haeger’s numerous accomplishments.

Business leaders asked her questions, gave her advice and informed her about current initiatives happening between the university and the community and at the Chamber of Commerce.

Welcome, Dr. Cheng!



Friday, August 8, 2014

Sign Code Restrictions Discussed at City Council

The Greater Flagstaff Chamber of Commerce mission includes advancing a strong business climate by being a catalyst for community and economic development in our region. Community improvement and economic growth come from a thriving business environment; when our local small businesses are able to grow their bottom line they are able to retain and hire new employees and reinvest in community needs. But to be able to do that good public policy needs to be in place that provides small businesses tools to succeed and removes barriers to success.
A significant way we can strengthen Flagstaff is by improving our city’s sign code to better reflect the needs of an economy in recovery. A study prepared by the University of Cincinnati and the Signage Foundation found that if a business chooses to use advertising signage to promote themselves it can help improve sales by as little as 10%  and much more, and can even lead to small positive impacts on employment at those businesses. For Flagstaff businesses a 10%+  increase in volume could contribute major dividends to strengthening our community.
Unfortunately, many of our city’s business owners and operators have felt that Flagstaff has too stringent of a regulation on signs, leading some to not bother with a significant investment in promotional signage due to penalties that are too high, permits that cost more than the signs themselves, and a permit application process that is too cumbersome.
Earlier this year, we conducted a survey among Chamber member businesses to gauge their opinions on the city’s current sign regulations. Responses were robust with more than 140 member businesses weighing in and the results were not surprising. Over 67% of respondents indicated that they felt the current code was too complicated. Only 15% said they had an above average opinion of the current regulations. Over 54% agreed that their business could benefit from a de-regulated code on temporary A-Frame (sandwich board) signs.
In the spring, Chamber staff went before the Flagstaff City Council to present the results of this survey to members of council and city staff advocating for a less burdensome, easier to understand, and less costly sign code to promote a stronger small business environment and robust economy. Some of the reforms for which the Chamber has advocated include:
- Continuing to respect our dark sky ordinance
- Allow for directional way-finding/off-premise signs
- Rescind permit requirement for indoor & inside window signage
- Give businesses an incentive to replace free-standing/old signage without fees or reapplication
- Allow A-Frame signs without a permitting process so long as their use conforms to a set standard
The Chamber applauds the city council for moving forward with amendments which reflected many of our suggestions including: removing the need for a permit for an A-Frame sign, allowing for directional signage to a business and adopting incentives for business owners to replace their old signs.  We still have work to do.  A vote on the final sign code revisions should take place early in the Fall.
To keep up-to-date with the sign code revisions and to see the full results of our member survey, visit our advocacy website www.flagbizvotes.com

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Chamber Active on Wildfire Prevention Legislation

A Message from the President

Last week the Greater Flagstaff Chamber of Commerce sat in on a conference call with Senator John McCain, representatives from his office, and the offices of Senator Jeff Flake and Senator John Barasso of Wyoming, to hear about S.2593, FLAME Act Amendments Act of 2014. Senator McCain began his conversation stating what an incredible challenge we have in the Southwest regarding fire and water.

The FLAME Act Amendments are tweaking the original legislation passed in 2009. Senator McCain bases his sponsoring of the legislation on the 2.4 million acres needing thinning in the Four Forest Restoration Initiative. Forest thinning can reduce the severity of a fire and the associated suppression
costs. But forest thinning cannot be successful without commercial enterprise to do it since the associated costs would be an enormous burden on the federal government.

Very high temperature fires are created when thinning isn’t done, which ultimately cause more catastrophic effects than if a burn reaches a thinned out area. This summer we watched the San Juan fire near Show Low torch over 7,000 acres of the White Mountain Apache Reservation and the Apache-
Sitgreaves National Forests. That number could have easily been multiplied if not for the decade-long White Mountain Stewardship Project. In S.2593 there is a requirement for the Forest Service and the Department of the Interior to dedicate appropriate funding to hazardous fuel reduction. There is also a discussion about categorizing catastrophic fires as FEMA national disasters; ditching the 10 year average cost of fire suppression to truly document what we have been spending in the past 3 years to better understand actual costs associated with suppression today and what budgetary measures should change to meet current drought conditions; requesting the Department of Defense to transfer newer aircraft to suppression efforts, versus outdated military aircraft which cannot meet our demands; and lastly to consider taking 50% of the $1.9 billion that is dedicated to suppression and dedicate it to hazardous fuel reduction or simply – forest thinning.

We applaud our Senators McCain, Flake, and Barsso for taking a lead on an issue so near and dear to all of us in Flagstaff and across the state. The bottom line is that we can’t continue to put more dollars into emergency fire situations and maintain the status quo while ignoring the excess fuel loads in our national forests that cause the catastrophic fires. Your chamber remains actively involved in many issues that affect our livelihood and local economy. Thank you for your membership investment; you allow the Greater Flagstaff Chamber to remain active affecting good policy decisions on many fronts as a catalyst for community and economic prosperity throughout our region. You are valued!