An Update to last month’s article on ECoNA. NAU’s Rich Bowen is on executive loan from Northern Arizona University and will head up the group. He tells FBN his job position will be reevaluated annually, to see if his expertise is best served with ECoNA, or on campus. Bowen says he looks forward to tackling economic development on a regional perspective.
Not even a year old, the Economic Collaborative of Northern Arizona (ECoNA) has big plans for 2011. The group, which is made up of organizations from both the public and private sectors, is doing what no organization has ever done before in Flagstaff: uniting virtually everyone with an interest in economic development in the region.
“I’ve been involved in this community for 45 years and this is the most comprehensive group of organizations involved in an effort that I’ve ever seen,” said Chris Bavasi, former Flagstaff mayor, chair of Flagstaff Medical Center’s board of directors and chairman of ECoNA’s executive committee. “It is very cool. That’s what makes this so unique and so different. Everybody is on board. Everybody who has an interest in economic development in the region is at the table.”
Flagstaff City Manager Kevin Burke, who was a big part in the formation of ECoNA, agrees about the importance of the new organization and what it can do for economic growth in the region.
“ECoNA is extremely important for two reasons. First and foremost, because it is a collaborative. Being a rural community, we have limited resources. We need to work together to leverage those resources, both financial and intellectual. Second, we need to speak with one voice. This allows Flagstaff to be a player on the state stage for economic development,” said Burke. In addition to the collaboration, Stacey Button, Flagstaff economic vitality director and one of ECoNA’s founding members, says the group’s regionalism is important to its success. “Regionalism is another key. ECoNA is representative of Northern Arizona and inclusive of 16 different public/private agencies throughout our area. It also allows us to better leverage our assets and directly impact outcomes for the betterment of the region,” said Button.
The Economic Collaborative includes representatives from the City of Flagstaff, Coconino County, businesses, developers, nonprofits, utilities, educational entities and others with interest in the region’s economic development. The system has three tiers of participation and monetary contribution, making ECoNA a new type of private-public partnership.
“In the past, generally the public sector has predominately funded economic development in the region. Now, we’re reversing that. The private sector will have a bigger stake in financing this collaborative.”
By bringing together so many different organizations and business interests, ECoNA is using its collaborative power to maximize its spending efficiency, reduce redundancies and get “more bang for the buck,” as Bavasi put it.
“As a bunch of individual organizations, we do a pretty good job now. But we believe the synergy that will be available by working in a collaborative effort will exponentially increase the results,” said Bavasi.
2011 will be the first full year of ECoNA.
After they hire the executive director (which they hope to do by the end of January), the group has an ambitious list of tasks it hopes to accomplish. Among them: coordinating the marketing plans, strategies, projects and programs of the economic development partners, establishing a micro-loan program and becoming the face and voice of economic development in the Flagstaff area. Defining the region that the group will serve is another top task.
“If we do these tasks, everything else falls into place. The residue of that is going to be the jobs and improved economic activity in Northern Arizona,” said Bavasi.
ECoNA has several “action teams” already working on various segments of its economic development plan, including redevelopment, economic gardening, workforce development and training, and business retention, expansion and attraction.
“The action teams have been very active,” said Burke. “There is a strike team associated with the Business Attraction group to respond to any company that shows an interest in relo- cating to Flagstaff. The Business Retention and Expansion team has been active in just that function. This includes working with existing businesses to assist them in expansion issues as well as understand and respond to a com- pany that is contemplating leaving Flagstaff.”
“We are in the formative stages, but 2011 will really see this organization find its legs and its voice,” said Burke. FBN
By Angele Sionna