As spring continues its return to Northern Arizona and our outdoor vistas once again fill with vibrant color and life, so too will our local businesses and natural wonders, as hundreds of visitors from around the nation gather next year for a conference spearheaded by Coconino County.
The National Association of Counties (NACo), an advocacy organization that works to promote county initiatives on the national stage, selected the county to host the 2013 Western Interstate Region Conference from May 22 to 24. Over that time, approximately 500 county, state and federal leaders from across the country will file into Flagstaff for business meetings aimed at tackling national issues.
But while meetings and discussions with county and federal officials will be the main draw, there will be plenty of opportunity for play, as attendees get out to tour our historic communities, numerous national parks and endless natural treasures.
The Western Interstate Region (WIR) of NACo is dedicated to promoting issues of interest that impact the nation’s 15 Western states, including Arizona, Alaska, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, Washington and Wyoming.
The conference will bring federal and county elected officials from across the Western United States, as well as the NACo Board of Directors, who will gather from across the country.
While the WIR Conference will find a temporary home in Flagstaff, it will serve as an excellent opportunity to showcase our surrounding communities, businesses and local and national wonders. It was our diverse communities and Native American Tribes that persuaded NACo to consider Coconino County to host the event.
Encompassing more than 18,000 square miles, Coconino is the second-largest county in the nation, behind San Bernardino, Calif. Located within our county is the Grand Canyon National Park, Sunset Crater National Monument, Walnut Canyon National Monument and Oak Creek Canyon, in addition to decades of history inside Flagstaff, Sedona, Williams, Page, Tuba City and our other unique communities.
It’s our hope that the timing of the conference, before the long Memorial Day weekend, will provide attendees with a few extra days to enjoy our cool temperatures, natural wonders and mountainous vistas. That will help pack local hotels, restaurants and attractions, while pumping always needed money into our local economy.
A team within the county has already begun the arduous task of planning the event – the first time it has been hosted in Arizona. Event organizers will soon begin reaching out to our local business community to form partnerships to help produce the conference.
Government Relations Director Joanne Keene is spearheading the planning effort for the county, in conjunction with the City of Flagstaff Convention and Visitor’s Bureau and the Chambers of Commerce throughout the county, including Sedona, Page and Williams. Those wanting to discuss sponsorship opportunities can reach Keene at 928-679-7134.
This undertaking, to bring the WIR conference next year, will result in an event of which our local business partners and the entire state will be proud. However, to achieve the outcome of a successful event for our county and surrounding communities, we will require the support of our local towns, businesses and members of the public.
Having the national spotlight descend on our slice of Northern Arizona benefits us all, and this will be our opportunity to share with the nation’s county leaders exactly what makes our piece of the country so special. FBN
Mike Townsend is a lifelong resident of Flagstaff and serves as interim Coconino County manager.