In his State of the City address in March, Casa Grande Mayor Craig McFarland highlighted some items that will have more of an immediate impact on the community than future new industry and business.
He told the audience at The Property Conference Center that City Manager Larry Rains has been meeting with each City Council member to get their views and find out what residents have been telling them about needs and wishes.
Earlier focus areas, he said, were to maintain high quality of life, enhance transportation routes, revitalize and redevelop historic Casa Grande, be a leader in economic development and ensure long-term viability of the Casa Grande region.
“After meeting with everybody, Larry kind of capsulized the comments,” McFarland continued. “We think that the existing focus areas are broad enough to encompass the goals and objectives for 2018, maybe removing the long-term viability of the region since that should be a kind of implied focus and direction of the city and then add a little more emphasis to the quality of life focus.”
He added, “And what I found interesting, when I went through Larry’s notes, is the commonality between all of us in the belief and needs for the city. I’m not going to list all of them, but I do have a short list. They were to develop a transit plan, build the community center, develop a parking plan for downtown, stay focused on workforce development, create initiatives to address the homeless issue – like the health community initiative – and create entrepreneurships and programs for the community for industry, interact with community and industry, assess our boards and commissions, create a volunteerism program and community pride outreach campaign, develop a marketing plan, develop a city customer service initiative, cover the rodeo grounds and plan to address the public safety retirement shortfall. Those were the top initiatives that you’ll probably see coming out from the council.”
McFarland touched on another community need area.
“There’s a community health initiative that I’ve asked Lisa (Fitzgibbons) and Donna (McBride) to take on for the council,” he said. “We’re going to try and work with all the local service groups to try and bring everybody together. The city can’t do it all by ourselves. We need that community involvement. So, we’re working on that initiative to try and bring all of those together to deal with the homeless problem, talk about the homeless problem, talk about mental health issues that we have in the community and bring everybody together, all the service organizations, all the ministries, so that we can all work together on this problem.”
He continued, “It is my firm belief that the city should take a role in being that collaborator, trying to be that element that brings all of those parties together.”
Other community efforts
“We’ve got our transit study underway, so we’re going to be continuing on that. I think we’re about halfway through that,” McFarland said.
“We’ve got a new city website coming out by June 1. It should have a lot of exciting stuff and interaction. You’ll actually probably find the maps to CG Mountain.”
He continued, “The community center, it is coming, I promise. It should be here before Council in the next month or two.”
Rains said the center would be under design by summer.
McFarland also mentioned Voices, a local project by Chuck Wright, highlighted in a new magazine.
“If you haven’t seen this magazine,” he said, “this highlights about 12 individuals here in our community, ordinary people but they have an extraordinary impact on our community. This is the kind of positive stuff that we need to be shouting about here in Casa Grande.”
“We’ve got a lot of things that are going on,” McFarland continued, “such as Grande Sports World with the pro soccer and lacrosse and the cross country events that happen out there. In addition, we’re working with Grande Sports World to develop a Play Day, where the residents have the opportunity to use the fields there. We have all those beautiful fields out there, so we’re working with them. The calendar will be on the new website under “Parks and Rec” and you can see the play days out there. In addition, the city will be scheduling play day events. You can see that on the calendar and if you want to reserve one of the fields that are open for play day, you can call Parks and Rec and make that arrangement. That’s a new thing that’s coming out.”
McFarland also said, “I can foresee trying to talk to somebody about maybe bringing in a balloon festival or doing something big along those lines. We have the facilities to do it. We have some beautiful grounds out at Francisco Grande that could certainly house a lot of people.”
McFarland’s presentation included a silent two-minute video highlighting Casa Grande.
“This is the kind of communication we want to start sending out on maybe a quarterly basis to developers, potential businesses,” he said. “It will be information about Casa Grande, so we will try and make sure that we control our message as to who we are and what we want people to think we are here in Casa Grande.”
The city, in cooperation with the local chamber of commerce, is also working on destination marketing.
“We’re trying to get some signage on I-10 to help talk a lot about that,” McFarland said. “That’s been a challenge because of particular state law that kind of dictates what we can and can’t do. My hope is to try to get that state law changed.”
“I know that the city doesn’t control or manage the education here in town,” McFarland said, “but we do have an opportunity to talk about what’s positive about our schools. When I first got here, there were two things being said – the hospital is terrible and the schools are terrible. Well, that is not true today. Our hospital is wonderful; it has changed a lot. And the schools are good.”
He continued, “I’ve been to probably six of the schools here in town in the last three months. They have a program of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. I went to an event at Ironwood where first and second graders and Kindergarten were talking about the seven habits and it was amazing. Who talks like that – first-graders? I was very impressed and if you haven’t seen any of it, you really should. Cactus Middle School with the 7 Mindsets program that they have, and all middle schools incorporate the 7 Mindsets, and if you haven’t seen any of that, you really need to. Our schools are in great shape, I think, personally, from my observation. Also, we need to talk about our A+ schools. We’ve had a lot of A+ schools here in Casa Grande — and they’re public schools. Villago just went through their rating (to be notified in April). Ironwood had it three years in a row. The accreditation at Vista Grande, they’re going through right now, so these are the kinds of things we need to talk about being on the positive side.”
Education ties in with workforce development, McFarland said.
We’ve talked about this, as well,” he said. “This whole partnership is actually being led by CAC and has done a wonderful job building curriculums for our local industry, looking at any trades – might be plumbing, electrical, warehousing and technicians, maintenance, you name it. Doing warehousing today is not like your father’s warehouse, where you just moved forklifts around. It’s all robots. It’s all technical technicians, computers. It’s a lot more involved than it was back in the day.”
The high school district is also involved.
“(They are) all moving together in collaborative ways to help move forward with our workforce development,” McFarland said. “I think it’s been a great thing. It’s awesome to watch it happen.”
“We continue to push the state on I-10 widening,” McFarland said, noting projections of jobs, population and visitors centered in Casa Grande. “If I-10 doesn’t get widened, it’s going to be a parking lot if all those things come to fruition, so we really need to all be talking to anybody who will listen about widening I-10. And believe me, I’ve been a thorn in their side.
The Kortsen Road interchange at I-10 and the sewer line extension to serve the east side are moving forward. The I-10 interchange at Kortsen will probably be a private-public partnership, so therefore it will actually be done.
The Dreamport Village and Henness Road interchange and the Selma interchange will probably be moved up on the (Arizona Department of Transportation) timetable. Thornton Road work, to service our industrial park, is moving forward. The plans are already being reviewed and that will probably happen here in the next year.”
“There’s lots of work ahead,” McFarland said in closing. “As I’ve said many times, these are exciting times, but working together I know we can make this happen. So please remember that because everything is possible, with passion first, because we are all connected and 100 percent accountable with our attitude of gratitude and live-to-give mindset, because the time is now.”
Video of the entire presentation can be found at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8HpNQYbpmYY
The city promotion video can be found at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LUIVfzY16gw