Henninger: Salt River rising is new opportunity for Scottsdale

I love being a student of the language, as it is ever evolving. “Coopetition” is one fairly new arrival. It’s a noun that means: “collaboration between business competitors in the hope of mutually beneficial results.”

Don Henninger

I love being a student of business and leadership, as both are ever evolving, too.

That thought came to mind considering the breadth and the depth of the continued development happening on the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community.

And no matter which side of Pima Road you live on, what’s happening there is good for both, though it does put Scottsdale on notice that inaction is not a desired option.

It didn’t always feel that way, as decades ago the relationship between tribal elders and city leaders wasn’t all that great. And even today, when the city loses car dealers to the other side of Pima, it hurts. Like the new Auto Mall and the millions of dollars in sales tax revenue that left a little hole in the current city budget.

But here’s the beauty about coopetition. It’s made up of competition, which only makes you stronger — and collaboration — which helps you maximize your potential with every opportunity.

Is the Tribe a competitor to the city? Absolutely. And not just from motor vehicle taxes. Look at McKesson’s new headquarters. No one was too happy when they cleared out of the Galleria in Old Town to move east of Pima. The Tribe is a major player on all economic development fronts, from large office and hotel projects, to major retail and entertainment centers.

The city can’t control what happens on tribal land. And the reality is that the city has limited space so it has to do more with what it has. That means looking at its own property and doing things like recruiting Yelp to fill up the Galleria with its 1,300 mostly millennial employees.

What a coup for Old Town. Leaders also have the chance to approve major private-sector improvements to Old Town, which will position it for long-term success.

I hope competition motivates city leaders to clear the way for those opportunities. And it might be good to remember that competition also comes from Gilbert, Chandler, Tempe, Phoenix, even Mesa. All those downtowns are improving. This is not a time to be complacent.

Is the Tribe a collaborator with the city? Absolutely.

Both share common goals as being destinations for tourists, who have no idea what the difference is between the west and east sides of Pima Road. Even most Arizona consumers don’t think about that when they are spending their dollars enjoying amenities on both locales. When the city is out recruiting new business locates, tribal options for entertainment, larger venues and amenities on tribal lands are effective drawing cards that work to the benefit of the city.

Coopetition can help you focus on your strengths and look for ways to improve on them – in the city’s case like investing in infrastructure work that will help Scottsdale to continue to shine; like starting to dig in a little deeper on transportation issues before congestion makes Scottsdale one big bottleneck.

We’ve got a great city, and a great neighbor to our east, and the opportunity to grow stronger together sure beats the alternative.

Editor’s note: Mr. Henninger is founder and executive director of SCOTT, the Scottsdale Coalition of Today and Tomorrow. Reach him at donh@scottsdale.com.

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