The past couple of years have seen a significant growth in the number of businesses operating in Flagstaff, with newcomers such as Sportsman’s Warehouse, Raising Cane’s Chicken Fingers and Smashburger. City officials attribute it to Flagstaff’s burgeoning reputation as both an affordable location to carry out business and a desirable place to live. This trend looks to continue as more restaurants, hotels and other commercial and industrial developments move forward from early planning to construction.
While businesses such as In-N-Out Burger and Trader Joe’s continue to garner interest among local residents, neither has yet submitted a business application with the city. Many other businesses, however, have moved forth with their development plans. These include a new Oregano’s Pizza Bistro location on Country Club Drive, Residence Inn by Marriott on North Humphreys Street and CVS Pharmacy on Milton Road.
The Trax development on East Route 66, which is anchored by Sportsman’s Warehouse, also continues to expand, with the Texas Roadhouse steak restaurant, Giant gas station and the Hyatt Place and Hyatt House all nearing or already under construction. Meanwhile, the new Harkins Theatre location in the Village at Flagstaff Mall will be opening soon and a new building for the East Butler Avenue Taco Bell is now going up.
Adding to the upsurge in commercial development is a burst of residential projects and two new rehabilitation hospitals – Ernest Health and Wellbrook Senior Living – that are slated for McMillan Mesa, along with the new Business Accelerator, which has more than 20,000 square feet of space available for new businesses that are in early revenue. This building offers lab, manufacturing, and office space for entrepreneurs.
Gail Jackson, business attraction manager with the City of Flagstaff, works with developers and new businesses interested in the Flagstaff market and helps them move forward. She said these efforts squarely align with the city’s mission statement. “We are supporting Council Goal Number 9, which is to improve the economic quality of life for Flagstaff through economic diversification, and by fostering jobs and programs that grow wages and revenues.”
Jackson says that while tourism is the number one economic engine in Flagstaff, the addition of these new businesses makes for a more diverse, stable and healthy economy.
A decade ago, Flagstaff had been growing in population at a steady rate of about 1.5 to two percent each year. This resulted in slow, but regular, growth of infrastructure and housing. “But in the last five years, we’ve seen incredible economic activity, with record tourism numbers and our university growing over a thousand students per year,” she said. “If you put all of these pieces together, you’re seeing some significant growth in a small city.”
Tied in with the strong tourism and university enrollee numbers is a flurry of positive national media attention. Outside Magazine, for instance, listed Flagstaff as the No. 7 best place to live in America. “This press coverage is saying that Flagstaff is an up-and-coming city and has a high quality of life. You don’t have to spend a lot of time commuting and the cost of living is less than in other locations such as California.”
Jackson predicts the growth will ultimately be bolstered, if not driven, by the biotech and digital product sector, as well as medical facilities. FBN
By Kevin Schindler