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#17 Bisbee Wire/Bisbee Economy/all Bisbee

Updated: Dec 29, 2019

editor: fred miller                                 October 9, 2019        

#17 October 2019  


Well it has been awhile since we have talked. More about that below...

The Bisbee economy continues to chug along, somewhat sluggishly with the exception of house sales. We had a mediocre summer at Copper City Inn. Anecdotal info from business people in OB have indicated the same although as pointed out below sales data is always two months behind actual spending. So what's happening?  Tourism in general is strong in Arizona. The one key difference in Bisbee is that there has been no Tourism Director for nine months. That means there has been no social media postings, no website updating, no statistical gathering, no advocacy for increasing the city's advertising budget, few travel writers in town, no meet and greets; in short no promotion of Bisbee. That has economically hurt businesses, workers, and the City- income, jobs, and taxes. Bisbee is but one of many cities in Arizona competing for visitors. When there is no promotion we cease to be a factor in travel plans. The council has split the Tourism functions into two jobs; Marketing and Visitor Center Manager. Marketing has been outsourced to a local group. Dog Cat Mouse Media has won the contract for marketing the City of Bisbee. They have presented  their plans to the iBisbee committee and have begun to some marketing activity. With an advertising budget of only $33k however, it is a major step backward from the past few years. I am unsure of what is happening with a Visitor Center Manager, it has not been advertised to my knowledge.

Likely the Visitor Center will soon permanently move to the Visitor Information Office in the museum. The Science Center has moved to the Mine Tour building. I was told, unverified, that the Mine Tour will expand their gift shop. It would be helpful to have the monthly numbers for the gift store reported for the past several years to see how much revenue it actually generates. 

There seems to be some sense of normalcy and stability in the City government the past few months. The advent of a new city manager, who seems well liked although Bisbee is known for eating city managers-4 in 5 years, has hopefully ushered in a period of competence. In the prior nine months there has been three new councilpersons, (two elected, one resigned/replaced), a new city attorney hired at twice the price of the former, the costly firing of a city manager, the hiring of an interim city manager that really did not care much for tourism, turbulence from the populace, and budget hearings that revealed the bare bones operating expenses for a number of departments. The list is longer, but why pick at scabs....Steadiness is welcome.

On a personal note, our dog Max died last month. Not unexpected but we had hoped to have him around for a longer time after he got through the summer. He had been diagnosed with GOLP (Geriatric Onset of Laryngeal Paralysis) which is a disease of a slowly closing windpipe and weakened back legs. We were on vacation but Anita came home a few days early to care for him. I got home on a Wednesday night took him for a walk and he seemed ok. Began having breathing problems and heavy panting so we took turns lying next to him during the night. I fell asleep at 5 am and when I woke at 7 he was gone. As good a death as we could hope for. He was the best boy, distributed his affection for both of us equally, and cleaned our plates regularly. Oooooh so painful, there is a big hole in our lives, we be so sad....

September was also electronic Hell month. Problems that simply didn't exist 12 years ago are now Major Things We Have To Deal With. Some problems with our reservation system company-they got hacked, we weren't affected-caused them to go out of business with 45 days notice. So after several hours of research we had a new reservations system (Thinkreservations) and much stress figuring out how to deal with it. All went well with porting our data from SuperINnn and the transition was smooth. Tech support is excellent and training vids are very good. It is a much better system and we continue to explore the enhanced capabilities. Big whoop! we get text messages when we get an online reservations... well not for you, but for us. Cafe Roka is switching to a POS system....yeah I know 10 years after. It has not gone smoothly but gradually the bugs are being worked out. More stress. We are in the Apple world, consequently when they upgrade their products, we have to. (Technically we don't have to, but if we don't we soon find ourselves not being able to do stuff, plus upgrades usually have an important security component.) So three phones, one ipad, 3 computers, and one TV later we are up do date. All have 'enhancements' which simply means there are more things to learn.

On the bright side our yard looks great and I am still getting a few tomatoes and shishito peppers from the garden.

And so it goes...



BISBEE ECONOMY (Statistical information provided by Realtors Nancy Parana & Bob Klein, city stats from Lorena Valdez, and state info from ADOR.)

HOUSES, COMMERCIAL BUILDINGS The past two months continues an active housing market for Bisbee. With few exceptions, houses each month have been selling in the double digits for the past four years. Commercial buildings not nearly so much.

Three commercial buildings sold in September for a total of $1,128,000. This is the most commercial sales activity in one month in the past four years According to Zillow, 28 Main sold for $400k on 9/20 and 37 OK street was listed as sold for $700k on 9/03. I was told, but can’t find it, that 41 Main sold also.  

September is a good month for house sellers (although June remains tops). And even August has been ok the past couple of years.

Houses were on the September market for a longer duration than the past few years. That may be attributable to the larger summer asking price that has gone up more than $60k in the past four years. And it could be the owners are holding out longer to get the price they want, or are pricing their houses above market value. (In the absence of supplemental info, it's guesswork.) 12 houses sold in September 2019 That compares with September         11/2018,             15/2017,             16/2016,             8/2015. Sales volume was $1,857,000 in September, ($1,411,416 in August). That compares with $1,414,000, in 2018, $1,555,848, in 2017, $1,764,000 in 2016, $755,640 in 2015 Houses were on the market 193 days, compared with 140 in 2018, 156 in 2017, 248 in 2016. The average for homes sold in 09/19 was $154,500, $128,545, in 2018, $103,723 in 2017, $110,250 in 2016, $94,550 in 2015.

BUILDING PERMITS I haven't received September permits, however in August there were 21 residential permits for $152,007 and 6 commercial for $68,345. Except for some big projects, Copper Queen Hospital, Chirichua Clinic, Bisbee School District, commercial work has been minor. Perhaps with bought buildings there will be more activity. With home sales steady at 10-15 per month, I expect remodeling, winterizing, replacing to continue apace.

SALES STATS (Sales info is two months behind the actual month of sales. For instance August reports are for June spending. Businesses declare their tax by the 21st of the month, after the prior month of sales. ADOR then tabulates all taxes and issues a report the month following the reporting.)

These also tend to come in towards the end of the month. August bed tax (May sales) was a surprising $10,230 (July/$7712, June/$9686, May/$10,460, April/$13,312, March $28,884) Restaurant Bar sales were $32,352 which was a bit lower than July $33,076. I'm surprised that R/B sales don't follow lodging taxes, but they don't. Retail in August was $81,258, a bit above July's $80,039. Both of those figures were about $5,000 above June, May, March, February and January totals. I'm also surprised that retail sales do not follow lodging sales, but they don't. Clearly retail has been struggling the past year. It has been the two months at the end of Spring that have seen the highest sales in the past 12 months. Perhaps it is an indication that retail is rebounding. We'll see.



The Anchor of Bisbee, Inc. 19 Howell Arthur Thomasson II (This is a group of evangelical Christians that were using the Presbyterian church until they were asked to leave a few weeks ago. However they have used the church address in their articles of incorporation.)

Southwest Communities Coalition* 125 E. Rudasil Rd, Tucson Brent Davis, Tucson (This is an private non-profit organization ostensibly about promoting economic development, but when publicly introduced in Benson last month was notable for launching a diatribe against environmental organizations that were challenging Villages of Vigneto, and nothing about econ dev. It seems it is very much like an 'astro turf' organization (masking the sponsors of a message or organization to make it appear as though it originates from and is supported by grassroots participants.) and funded by hidden sources, right wing think tanks, and not local people. There are some local people on the board; Ed Gilligan (Mr. Gilligan is the Cochise County Administrator and although listed as a board member in the articles of incorporation has publicly stated he is not a board member, John Ladd-a local rancher, and a few people from Benson. Also a director and on the board is one of the main developers of the Villages at Vigneto, Mike Reinbold of El Dorado Holdings.  The statutory agent is non-local person, Brent Davis from Tucson, a principal in Group Management, Inc. an association management company representing 12 associations in Tucson and Arizona,. He is also the CEO of the recently formed Visit Southern Arizona tourism organization. 

The press conference was fronted by a Washington DC lawyer, Lanny Davis, with some questions to be answered  directed to the public relations firm in Washington DC-an adjunct to his law practice. (If Davis is familiar it is because he was in the news on behalf of a recent client of Davis,Michael Cohen-former attorney for Trump-now a felon). The Executive Director, Brian Seasholes, has worked for the Reason Foundation and has also worked for  other conservative organizations that utilize a 'free market' approach to environmental issues. He is a supporter of the the Trump administration efforts to reform/destroy the Endangered Species Act. The Reason Foundation, an organization that denies climate change is occurring, is partially funded by the Koch Family Foundations and part of a broad network of 'libertarian' think tanks-many partially or totally funded by the Koch foundations. It is also part of the State Policy Network that drive the American  Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). For those lazy or incompetent state legislators unable to write their own bills, ALEC provides 'model legislation' at the state level for promoting right wing causes. Several Arizona laws were first formulated by ALEC. )

There was no mention of how they are being funded. With such heavy out of town hitters, it's gotta be a bundle. Could we see the marketing budget figures for Vigneto?



The Copper Queen Library, the oldest in the state founded in 1882, has been named as the Best Small Library in America. The award is given to libraries serving communities of 25,000 of less by the Library Journal. The award came with a check for $5000. Jason Macoviak and Alison Williams were singled out for their creative projects that involve the community. A detailed article is in the agenda background.

The City is seeking donations to help defray the cost of 31st Festival of Lights. This family friendly event that the City coordinates, needs dough, candy for stockings, and prizes for kiddos. The event on November 29, is an all day affair with vendors, crafts, food, and culminates with the lighting of a tree above the mine tour and a fat guy or skinny person with padding-in a red suit arriving in an antique fire truck. Call Lorena Valdez at 432-6002 for info.

*********** The City Charter Review, held every 5 years, is underway. The review committee is composed of 12 people nominated by council members from the 3 wards, as well as an original free holder and a former committee member. The group looks at each clause in what is basically the Constitution of the City of Bisbee for possible updating or changing in some way. I am one of those 12 peeps so if anyone has suggestions about possible inclusion or deletions send them my way and will raise them at the monthly meeting. I urge you read the Charter here  because it is the governing document-the operating instructions-for the Council.

***************** Dark Skies in Bisbee? A local person, Bruce Syrett, has led an attempt to get Bisbee designated as a 'Dark Sky Community, joining four other cities in Arizona and only 22 nationally. The city council has initiated a review of light ordinances. The International Dark-Sky Association – which is based in Tucson – defines a Dark-Sky Community as a “town, city, or municipality that has shown exceptional dedication to the preservation of the night sky through the implementation and enforcement of quality lighting codes, dark sky education, and citizen support of dark skies.” It would be beneficial to update regs and pass measures that qualify Bisbee as a dark sky community. Keeping our skies clear of light pollution not only benefits those who live here, but is an added inducement to attract those poor souls living in cities who have not seen stars in many years. If nothing else consider the beneficial effect on big city residents coming to Bisbee and getting a reminder that they are not the center of the universe. Bruce Syrett will be at the Library October 15, 5:30 for a dark sky talk.

***************** Employment Communications Officer/dispatcher Police Officer Firefighter/EMT/Paramedic Transit Driver Tour Guide, Queen Mine

************** iWorQ is up and running. This program is to help residents report problems to the City for quick action. This is the process: Go to, on the home page and under the vid  there is a line with hot links to 'Agendas', 'Employment' and then  'Report a Concern', click on it and-if a new user-a short form to fill to verify your email address, or you can register as a guest.  Once verified, then you may then file a brief report with the problem or concern you have. 

************** You may pay city bills online using this site.



Poco at 15 Main st. has expanded their store to include more shelf goodies, frozen items, grab and go, some produce, and beverages. Mostly Vegan products. Drop in and see what they have to offer. ....... Nam Sen,a new tea house, has opened in the former Anna's Kitchen building. Offering savories, sweets, and a large selection of black, green, and herbal teas as well tea hardware. Open 10-7, closed Tuesday and Wednesday. 520-261-5577 105 Main St. next to Copper City Inn.



On Thursday October 17 at 6PM in the Royale theater the Board of the Bisbee Radio Project will be hosting a community meeting. They will be giving a presentation on the current state and future of the Bisbee Radio Project; discussing finances, the state of KBRP, the state of the Bisbee Royale and the condition of the building.

This is an important meeting as we will be asking the members to vote on the future of the Royale in the next Board election in November.

The board feels that the membership should be brought up to date and have input into the decisions about the future of the Bisbee Radio Project.

Please attend.  6PM October 17th in the Royale theater.


Volunteer for the Friends of Warren Ballpark

The Friends of Warren Ballpark are seeking new members and leadership so they can continue ten years of success. For the past ten years, the Friends of Warren Ballpark have worked with the park’s owner, the Bisbee School District, to raise funds to preserve Bisbee’s beloved, historic Warren Ballpark, now 110 years old. Our projects include construction of disabled accessible public restrooms, a multi-sport scoreboard, a much photographed baseball sculpture and a football sign identifying the park and installation of baseball netting behind home plate. Each year we host a Vintage Base Ball tournament fundraiser. It has been a labor of love from a group of dedicated Bisbee citizens.

After ten years, the current chair is stepping down. We are seeking people, interested in this historic gem, to join us in helping the school district preserve the ballpark for another 100 years. Call 520 366-1455, email ( or message Judy Anderson, the current chair, for more information. The Friends are a non-profit, volunteer, organization sponsored by the Bisbee Council on the Arts and Humanities.


Signs in Bisbee

Doug Dunn's "Signs of Bisbee"  is out.  The book is a  40 year collection of Bisbee signs and their interesting history full of rich photographs and illustrations.  Bisbee graphic artist Bridget Shanahan did the graphics and layout for the book. Books can be purchased directly from me or at Acacia Art and Antiques, 69 Main Street, or Bisbee Books at 2 Main Street in the Copper Queen Plaza where the sign collection is on display.  ....................

Sings in Bisbee... Bisbee Community Chorus presents "Hear America Singing" on Oct 19 at 7:00 pm and Oct 20 at 3:00.  The concerts will be at Presbyterian Church Annex, on Howell Ave in Old Bisbee.  Tickets: $10 for adults, K-12 students admitted free, available at Finders Keepers, Bisbee Office Supply, Eventbrite and at the door. 


Cows, Water, and Sulphur Springs Valley

Riverview LLP, a dairy and beef conglomerate headquartered in Morris, Minnesota.  "...the company has bought at least 166 parcels of land in 59 separate transactions totalling at least $129 million, according to property records reviewed by NBC News. Riverview now owns 20,000 acres of farmland in Cochise County, according to the company."



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