by Mark Benner, Executive Director, Eloy Chamber of Commerce
In 1902, the area surrounding the city began to carry the name Eloy because the Southern Pacific Railway built a siding and section house and it was called ELOY, an acronym for the East Line of Yuma. In 1918, the Cotton City Land and Development Company purchased land and plotted a town and called it Cotton City. Early settlers recognized that the city was sited in the fertile Santa Cruz River Basin which prompted the cultivation of cotton. An application was made in 1919 to establish a post office at which time the city founders favored the name ‘Cotton City’. However, this name was rejected by both the railroad and postal service and the name ‘Eloy’ was selected.
When the City of Eloy officially incorporated in 1949, it was home to approximately 4,700 residents. There are three developed areas of the City- the Downtown area; the Toltec area and Robson Ranch. The City of Eloy is located nearly equi-distant from Phoenix and Tucson and now includes approximately 113 square miles. A population of 18,000 resides in the City, with forecasts to double in the next 10 years.
Eloy has a fantastic future, because of the location at the heart of the Arizona Sun Corridor. For many years, Eloy has had the opportunity to serve as the vortex of manufacturing and major distribution firms located along Interstates 8 and 10, as well as offering key transportation assets with the Union Pacific Railroad and Eloy Municipal Airport.
The new Eloy Community Development Department Director, Jon Vlaming, recognizes the value of the open space and trails that surround the city. He is working on long-term plans to preserve and increase the opportunities for citizens and visitors to enjoy the outdoors. Eloy’s great outdoors and nearby hiking venues include Picacho Peak State Park, the Picacho Reservoir, Ironwood Forest National Monument, the Casa Grande Natural Resource & Trail Park, and Casa Grande Ruins National Park in Coolidge.
Historically, Eloy’s economy has been largely dependent upon agriculture. During harvest time, the city’s population could temporarily triple. The city’s economy has now diversified, with over three-quarters of its businesses and nearly half of its employment in the industrial, wholesale/retail / service sectors. The majority of city revenues accrue from the seven truck stops along Interstate 10 and the privately-operated prison, Corrections Corporation of America (CCA).
The Eloy Municipal Airport is home to SkyDive Arizona, which is considered the busiest operation in North America. Recently, over 13,530 jumps were completed in a nine day period. Because of our world-class quality parachute jumping facility, complimented by 350 days-a-year of sunshine, the airport activities now include an indoor skydive wind tunnel, aircraft maintenance, aircraft painting, parachute manufacturing and equipment maintenance, and aerial crop dusting. Additionally, the High But Dry Company provides hot air balloon rides.
Another jewel is the Santa Cruz Valley Historic Museum. In June 2003, the Sunland Visitor Center took possession of the Old Toltec Primary School campus after signing a long term lease with the Toltec school board. Two original buildings were donated in 1928 by Frank Shedd and were in use for almost 30 years as segregated schools for White and Colored children until desegregation was instituted in 1951. Because the buildings needed extensive renovation, the Santa Cruz Valley Historic Museum was formed to oversee their restoration and operation.
The restoration completed so far is the result of individual and charitable donations; monies raised at the Museum’s Annual Dinner Dance fundraising events, local grants, donated materials from local businesses, individuals who donated their time and support, labor donated by the Southwest Archaeological Team from Mesa, and from the support of the City of Eloy. The Museum will be the “Entrance to Eloy”. It will present the “history of cotton in the Santa Cruz Valley”. It will also house items representing the history of Eloy, with the soda fountain from Hodge’s Pharmacy as well as the Toltec Tavern sign already secured. For more information on the Museum Project, to make a donation or to volunteer your assistance, please call Dick Myers, 520-421-0696. www.scvhmuseum.org.
Another ongoing project is the Eloy Downtown Advisory Commission (DAC). DAC meets monthly to discuss ways to improve the downtown area. The objective is to provide recommendations to the city council. DAC recently completed their second ‘Tour of Empty Buildings’ to bring property owners, Realtors®, investors, the city and other interested parties together to see the area potential. Since the first tour in June of this year, a parachute manufacturing company is currently renovating a property, with Firebird Parachutes opening in January. A vacant lot is now owned by Pinal Hispanic Council and the parcel will be developed into a community garden (the Eloy Veterans Center will coordinate the facility.) and four building owners have begun a clean-up and maintenance of their property and are looking to lease or sell.
Kevin Fort, the director of the Central Arizona College Small Business Development Center, has attended the tour and offered his expertise to the owners & buyers. Kevin wants to insure that people understand the relevance of their business to the community. He tells his clients “to look at your business through the eyes of your customers.” Business owners, and especially those who consider themselves to be entrepreneurs, often pride themselves on being great innovators. They bring world- changing ideas and vision to the table but often fail to view that innovation through the eyes of their customers. Henry Ford once said: (it is arguable that he actually said it but his actions tend to imply that his thought process leaned towards) “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have told me a faster horse.” When a business owner looks at their business through the eyes of their customer, they are actively engaging in the process of relevance. At the end of the day, the customer must be willing to sit across the desk and write a check for a product or service
The DAC is developing a mission statement & a vision which will identify the relevance of downtown and what needs to happen so the citizens of Eloy will thoroughly enjoy the amenities their downtown can and will offer them.
Recent Successes/Near Term Directions. The following projects have or will exhibit a positive impact on the City:
- Expansion of Otto Environmental-Completed
- City Entry Monument Signage-Constructed
- 2% Food Tax for Economic Development-Adopted
- Economic Development Consultant-Hired
- Downtown Advisory Commission-Formed
- Veteran’s Heritage Park (On Main Street)
- Expansion of CCA Prison-Under Construction
- Monsanto Water Line Extension-Under Construction
- Municipal Airport Taxi Lanes-Under Construction
- Wayfinding Signage-Under Design
- Downtown Entry Landscape-Under Design
- New City Hall-Under Design, 2018 Completion
- Interstate 10 improvements-Programmed
- Municipal Airport T-Hangars-Programmed
- Downtown Master Plan-Programmed
- Red Rock Rail Classification Yard-Proposed