Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Portable, Remote Technology Aids Escape from Arizona's Summer Heat

As reported vacation rentals in Arizona, portable computers, high-speed modems and fax machines make it possible for Valley residents to get out of the sweltering heat and telecommute from their second homes or arizona vacation rentals in the cool pines of Flagstaff, Greer or Pinetop.

It's amazing how much work you can get done without all the interruptions, said Tom Lewis, president of T.W. Lewis Co. Lewis often runs his Tempe home-building business from the den of his Forest Highlands home eight miles southwest of Flagstaff.

"I'm not a modem cowboy," he said, "and I basically come here to relax and get away from work. But I always take a laptop with me and plan on doing some work," he said.

He's not alone. The Forest Highlands community and country club is a haven for Phoenix business people during the summer, and many of them are working in between rounds of golf and hikes in the woods.

Tom Smyth regularly telecommutes from his Forest Highlands home with his office at Scottsdale's Independent Newspapers Inc.

"I see more Phoenix people that I know at Forest Highlands than I do in Phoenix," Lewis added.

R.L. Brown runs his Phoenix-area real estate consulting business from his home in Munds Park, 20 miles south of Flagstaff.

Brown and his wife, Joann, have never regretted moving their business permanently to the pines in 1991. While they work regular hours inside their 3,800-square-foot home, they often take a break at lunch and go for a hike or, in the winter, a cross-country ski trek.

At first they worried they might lose touch with the Phoenix market and their customer base. But that wasn't the case.

"We never lost a customer," R.L. Brown said.

A Phoenix phone line lets customers reach the business with a local call, and a computer network allows the Browns' computers in Munds Park to communicate with those at employees' homes in the Valley.

Brown also spends about two days a week in the Phoenix area, flying into Deer Valley in the morning and back to Munds Park at night.

For heat-weary Phoenicians who aren't into telecommuting, there are hundreds of summer jobs available in the north country. Hotels and restaurants generally hire extra help in the spring.

The Little America Hotel, which employs about 300 people, usually adds employees in the spring when it gears up for its busy season, which can run through October. The hotel doesn't lay off people during the slow season. Instead it doesn't replace, untilspring, those employees who leave during the winter, especially when it starts to snow.

The U.S. Forest Service also hires summer help. Darla Flores, the Forest Service's personnel management specialist in Flagstaff, said the agency typically has about 250 seasonal openings for firefighters, tourist information workers and maintenance personnel.

The positions are in Tonto, Prescott, Coconino and Kaibab national forests and usually last four to five months. Pay ranges from $7.35 to $9.02 per hour. The agency typically advertises the openings in mid-December and can receive more than 2,000 applications.

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