UA, merchants meet as committee for first time

By Ann McBride

Arizona Daily Wildcat

It was referred to as David sitting down with Goliath the UA as David and local merchants as Goliath when the newly formed Business Advisory Committee met for the first time Thursday.

Problems between Pima County's largest employer and members of the business community have arisen over what some merchants call unfair competition and arbitrary business decisions.

As a result, some members were openly skeptical of the group's purpose and wondered "why now?" Was it just a "feel good" attempt on the part of the university that would result in no real change?

When discussing the weight of the group, the owner of Pappy's Catering asked, "How much heart do you want from us?

Bruce Wright, director for Community Services and Economic Development and co-chairman of the 17-person committee, said the UA and the merchants have a common goal of providing quality and reasonably priced services to faculty, students and staff. He said he looks for the committee to have "frank, open and hard-hitting" conversations on key issues.

And, while he said the UA may not acquiesce to all of the merchants' demands, the university wants to be allies with the business community rather than adversaries. The UA has a "huge stake" in fostering a good working relationship with the business community, especially with those located near the campus, he said.

He pointed to the presence of Joel Valdez, senior vice president for business affairs, as a sign of the university's commitment to the group.

Valdez said the formation of such a group is "breaking new ground" as other universities have no similar organizations. He said the UA is committed to bringing some peace to the community.

The committee was created after a 1994 Business Practices Study, conducted by Wright's office, recommended its formation.

The study concluded that while the UA is in compliance with all Arizona Board of Regents policies, its business practices can be improved by centralizing its policies, establishing a committee and creating an issue resolution process within the university.

Presentations were made regarding the UA business practices and policies and the future of the multipurpose debit card, which is scheduled to replace the All Aboard and Pocket Money programs by fall 1996.

Another issue discussed during the two-hour meeting, which was held at the Swede Johnson Alumni Building, was the overall picture of the campus community, which Dave Ellis, owner of Zachary's Pizza and president of Sixth Street Merchant's Association said, has the potential to be dull and boring with no personality or character.

The group agreed to meet in early December to review the UA's draft copy of its business practices and policies, which was included in a report given to each member. They then will meet in January and every two months thereafter. Wright asked for a member of the committee to act as a co-chairperson and he hopes someone will volunteer at the group's next meeting.

The meeting was attended by officers of the campus, downtown, Fourth Avenue, Sixth Street and Speedway Merchant's Associations and members of various Chambers of Commerce and city business organizations. Joseph Dean, Arizona Small Business Advocate from Gov. Fife Symington's office, also attended the meeting.

University of Arizona representatives included Wright, Valdez, Julius Parker, associate vice president of business affairs, Student Union Director Dan Adams, and Gerri Sullivan, program coordinator in the department of economic development.

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