OPINION: the Desert Discovery Center from a business perspective

Ask any business consultant what the three most important things are for a successful business: Location, location, location.

Eliot Minsker

Every retail establishment, big or small, nonprofit or not, must think carefully about location. It seems to us, two businessmen with 80 years of combined business and consulting experience who are actively involved in the community, that the Desert Discovery Center should not overlook a careful examination of the business factors regarding its planned location.

There is important work underway, helping to underscore the value of the DDC. The design and configuration of the DDC appears to be in outstanding hands.

There may be no better firm in the country to design what seems to be a widely desired new desert education center, and no better city in the southwest to host such a facility as Scottsdale. And, according to Randy Schilling, who is organizing the construction financing, money is available to pay for an estimated $50 million in construction costs without using taxpayer funds.

Eventually, the DDC will be up and running. From our present pre-construction perspective, it is difficult to estimate the operating income. No matter how optimistic the operating projections may be, any yearly shortfalls will have to be subsidized with taxpayer dollars.

Bill Crawford

Taxpayers now subsidize the Scottsdale Cultural Council, WestWorld, the Western Spirit Scottsdale’s Museum of the West, the Giant’s stadium, and other visitor attractions. Each of these subsidies are matched against the sales taxes generated by the entity being subsidized.  It is therefore very important to try to maximize sales taxes generated by the DDC.

Scottsdale is facing major infrastructure expenditures, modification of Giant’s Stadium, etc. and there is always a reluctance to raise taxes to support these real and potential costs.

It makes sense to carefully consider the location of the DDC to make sure it is properly positioned to maximize attendance. When driving on the Loop 101 notice the OdySea Aquarium, Butterfly Wonderland and other attractions planned right next to each other. This creates a synergy and the ability to cross plug the neighboring attractions. This example comes to mind when considering the DDC location close to our downtown Western Museum, the Art District and our vibrant downtown.

It’s the number of visitors that will make the difference when it comes to the bottom line. If we can reduce the risk of another attraction failing to cover its operating costs over the years, then the project will be an asset. This will not only help build attendance, but will also support the DDC by enhancing sales tax collections and neighboring businesses — and their sales tax collection — if the DCC is in a location where concentrated infrastructure and demographics already exist. The less money required to subsidize shortfalls, the higher the quality of life for Scottsdale residents.

It makes sense to carefully consider location.

Infrastructure is abundant in central and southern Scottsdale with lots of shopping, restaurants and hotels to support the DDC.  Few visitors are going to head for the desert trails right after visiting the DDC. But they are likely to visit neighboring downtown shops and restaurants. A convenient location would certainly enhance attendance, and area commerce.

No one can accurately predict attendance in year one, let alone future years of the DDC’s existence. It seems only prudent to make every effort to enhance operating revenue from attendance and the sales tax effect.

The citizens of Scottsdale and their Scottsdale City Council representatives should give this some thought.

Editor’s note: Mr. Minsker and Mr. Crawford are residents of Scottsdale

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