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BUY LOCAL: City creates marketing campaign to keep dollars in Sierra Vista

SIERRA VISTA — Buy local.

That’s the message city officials are broadcasting now that many COVID-19 restrictions have been lifted across the state and the mom and pop shops around Sierra Vista have placed the “open” signs back in their windows.

The city has just launched its first in-house campaign aimed at getting consumers to buy from their local merchants. A full-page ad in the Herald/Review newspaper and a video on the city’s Facebook page — https://www.facebook.com/CityofSierraVistaAZ — were rolled out recently to both entice and educate consumers about keeping their dollars in the local economy.

“Buy local means your dollars stay here to support Sierra Vista families,” the full-page ad says.

And the campaign’s slogan is a simple one: #BuySierraVista.

Economic Development Director Tony Boone said about one third of the city’s businesses are locally-owned. He said for every dollar spent at a local shop, three dollars goes back into the local economy. In other words, all the money stays here in the city, Boone said.

Only a portion of the money spent in a large chain store stays in the community, and profits are usually sent back to the stores’ corporate headquarters, Boone said.

For the last year, Boone and Sierra Vista Marketing and Communications Director Judy Hector have been trying to figure out how to create a campaign that would both encourage and inform people about the importance of buying goods from their local businesses.

The city wanted to partner with the Sierra Vista Area Chamber, but at the time, the organization was in the midst of a leadership change, and the partnership was declined, city officials said.

For the first time ever, the city would go it alone. Hector said such a project would normally have been handled by an outside entity.

“We regrouped and Judy and I came back and said, ‘What can we as a city do?’” Boone said.

Boone and Hector said they realized that they had to encourage and educate the public on why buying local is important. The full-page ad and the video are the first components of the campaign. Two more videos are planned, Hector said.

One of the key messages to consumers is that while buying online is convenient, it does not help local shops stay in business.

When the coronavirus gripped the nation, most small businesses around the country — Sierra Vista was no exception — were forced to close, while many big box stores, such as Walmart and Target, and nationally-owned supermarkets remained open.

As a result, people began shopping online for the items they could not find. While shopping online is easy, it doesn’t sustain workers employed in small businesses, according to an article written by the city’s marketing team.

“It (shopping online) might be convenient, but our community loses with every mouse click,” the article states. “The loss isn’t about tax revenue. It’s about jobs, teams and events, local character and a vital economy.”

Hector echoed that, saying local shops have a lot to offer.

“You don’t have to buy everything online,” she said. “You can shop at your local stores, your local stores have a great variety.”

She added that local business owners also make up part of the city’s fabric.

“Small business owners are literally invested in Sierra Vista,” she said. “They live here, they’re going to stay here and they love the community.”

Stephanie Mendez, manager of Livia’s Coffee on East Wilcox Drive, applauded the city’s buy local campaign, calling it, “cool.”

Livia’s has been in business for the last decade, Mendez said.

“A lot of people don’t shop local and it hurts a community,” Mendez said.

Meanwhile, Melany Edwards-Barton, the Sierra Vista Area Chamber’s executive director since December 2019, said Thursday that she was unaware the organization had declined the partnership with the city.

In a phone interview, Edwards-Barton said she would contact Boone and Hector and see what the chamber could do to assist in the campaign. She also said the chamber is working with Local First ARIZONA on a series of webinars designed to help small local businesses in the area “get back on their feet” after being shut down for several weeks by the coronavirus pandemic.

The links to the webinars will be published on the Chamber’s website probably by June, Edwards-Barton said.

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Sierra Vista closes City Hall again, city employee tested for COVID-19

SIERRA VISTA — City Hall was shut down to the public again on Thursday after officials learned that an employee’s sister was being tested for COVID-19 after becoming ill.

Mayor Rick Mueller said officials had just learned about the employee’s sibling on Thursday morning. Mueller announced the situation on a Facebook live appearance with the Sierra Vista Area Chamber of Commerce and Director Melany Edwards-Barton.

This is the second time in two months that personnel at City Hall have been directly affected by the coronavirus.

“We had to take a step back and close access to City Hall,” Mueller told Edwards-Barton. “We got news today that one of our City Hall employees, whose sister is very sick, is being tested for COVID-19 today.”

The mayor said some employees who have come in contact with the individual would be working from their homes as a precaution.

He said city officials would be awaiting the test results from the employee, as well as the employee’s family.

For now, residents can conduct business with the city via phone or online, Mueller said.

In late April, City Manager Chuck Potucek announced at a City Council work session that there was a “potential employee case positive” and that 29 other people had been sent home for a 14-day quarantine. Potucek told the Herald/Review that he could not reveal whether the employee had actually tested positive for the virus for privacy reasons.

Because of the employee’s status, three city buildings had to be shut down at the time, including the library, the Oscar Yrun Community Center and the Ethel H. Berger Center.

It’s not clear where the employee involved in the lated COVID-19 incident works, but Mueller said the person has access to several areas of the city.

City Hall reopened on May 18 after being closed since late March. Many staff members continued working inside the building, but there were also several who worked from their homes. City Council meetings and other public sessions were also held remotely.

Potucek had said at a recent work session that he expected most employees would return to City Hall and other city buildings, by early June. He had also mentioned that public meetings would resume at City Hall, as well.

“Choosing to operate with an abundance of caution, we are closing the lobbies of buildings that were open and postponing the reopening of other facilities so that we can keep staff and the public as safe as possible,” said Sierra Vista Mayor Rick Mueller in a press release.

Additional reopenings are now tentatively planned for June 15, including the Cove and Vista Transit Center, which had been set to reopen in limited capacity on Monday, June 1. Outdoor facilities recently reopened remain open for public use including City parks and sports facilities.

For the latest updates on city facilities, programs, and announcements concerning COVID-19, head to www.SierraVistaAZ.gov and click the link to the “Combating Coronavirus” webpage.