Businesses looking to relocate to Flagstaff cannot find developed land that adequately meets their needs. “We are seeing interests out of California. One of the challenges right out of the gate is that we don’t have enough pre-developed land for them,” said Rich Bowen, president and CEO of Economic Collaborative of Northern Arizona (ECoNA).
“We hear, ‘We want to come, but we need to move into a preexisting building.’ They don’t have the two years that it would take to build such a building – or longer to get the infrastructure in place,” Bowen explained.
When asked about businesses hindered by the shortage of pre-developed land, Flagstaff City Council member Karla Brewster said, “I know there have been some. Recently a high-tech business from the Valley was looking to relocate to Flagstaff, but they weren’t certain about location – or workforce.” Brewster is the Flagstaff City representative on ECoNA Board.
To overcome this hurdle and others, ECoNA is working on a development map that would help create a 15-20-year plan for bringing in economic development. “The ECoNA Board will drive the development plan,” said Bowen. The nine-member board is made up of stakeholders from both the public and private sectors.
“The development map is important. If someone is interested, it is important for them to know what is available,” said Brewster. “The problem is that a lot of the land doesn’t have infrastructure.”
According to Bowen, the development map will delineate areas marked for expansion and help get infrastructure in place. “That will take some time in today’s economy – but there needs to be a plan in place. Federal dollars will continue to be there to support laying down infrastructure for future economic development,” he said. The map will create places for the expansion of existing Northern Arizona companies and start-up businesses in addition to those from outside looking to locate to Flagstaff.
“But we will need to show our plan. Legislators want to know, ‘Will the community support this?’ If we’re all on the same page, it eliminates the disconnect that federal agencies run into with different priorities and ideas. A common complaint that I hear from legislators is ‘Give me your top priorities, not the top 50 priorities. I can’t do anything with that,’” added Bowen.
The goal is that collaborative efforts of the varied public and private sector interests at ECoNA will settle on the top priorities for Northern Arizona. “We have huge potential to do this to make it a reality,” said Brewster.
The city councilwoman sees many plus points for the collaborative. “ECoNA is regionally focused, rather than limited to the city limits.” The development plan and map will work in conjunction and reflect the land uses in the new Flagstaff Regional Plan.
“Further, the public/private partnership allows you to do more things – it allows you to use resources better. Also, the people on the executive board are all stakeholders – they have put in money to do a few things,” she added.
“Rich Bowen being on loan from NAU is a good thing. He has been involved in this community for 45 years. Rich has a base of resources and contacts that are really so important to move us forward.
“We are in the beginning of formalizing this organization – flexible organization as we move forward, we can add or delete areas of focus,” said Brewster.
“Bellemont is one of our focuses because it’s on both highway and rail line. But it needs upgrades to power and data lines,” she said. The development plan will look at the larger region, including lands at Bellemont, Leupp Road, I-17 to Munds Park, the I-40 corridor between Winslow, Flagstaff, and Williams.
“In the last year and half I have become more concerned about economic development in Flagstaff. Quality of life issues are important, but you can’t have it one sided in either direction. If you’re not growing economically, you’re in trouble – if you don’t have growth, you can’t pay for other things,” explained Brewster. “We need to be moving forward economically.”
ECoNA’s development map and plan promises to help do so. FBN