Tim Kanavel was hired as Pinal County’s first economic development director in 2009, and over the next dozen years led efforts that attracted some $8 billion worth of investment, including electric vehicle makers Lucid Motors and Nikola Corp.
Kanavel, who died Feb. 9, 2021, from complications of COVID-19, leaves behind three children, four grandchildren, and countless co-workers, business leaders, and residents in mourning. He was 64.
Pinal County Board of Supervisors Chairman Stephen Miller said in a statement the next day, “Tim came from the working world having begun his career in the oilfields, and as a result, knew how important jobs are and what they mean to everyday lives.
“There was nobody more dedicated to his job and to Pinal County than Tim.”
Vice-Chairman Mike Goodman added, “There’s no way you can replace a Tim Kanavel. What he’s done for this County and our communities is truly beyond measurement, we’re going to see the impact of Tim’s work for decades. What’s going to be challenging is to continue that legacy.”
He and his department won several awards during his tenure —Economic Developer of the Year (small community) in 2017 by the Arizona Association of Economic Developers and Large Organization of the Year last year.
He was the first person to win the economic developer honor twice, having received it in 2004 while rural economic development manager for the state Department of Commerce.
He started out drilling in the oilfields of Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia, then attended the University of Arizona and worked for Wickenburg Regional Economic Development Partnership, Tucson Airport, and the former Greater Tucson Economic Council.
His full title at the County was Economic Development and Workforce Development Director, and he worked with educators across the County to align training programs to the skills prospective employers need. He was active with Pinal Partnership and many more local organizations.
Kanavel, who went back to work at the County just three weeks after a second kidney transplant, was known for his unfailing energy and commitment to bring jobs to every part of the County, as he said in a Golden Corridor LIVING article last year about a “tech corridor” study.
“Every city in the whole entire County is going to be a part of this,” he said. “Whether we put a company over in Mammoth or not, the workforce and opportunities for auxiliary operations will be there. Not all of them are going to go along the freeway because they don’t need to be on the freeway.”
Known for his prodigious energy, enthusiasm, and conversation, he admitted in a 2018 GCL ROX interview he wasn’t “always on.”
“I’ll tell you, this is really funny though. On the weekends, I don’t call anybody, I don’t talk to anybody, I don’t hardly see anybody. I really don’t. I don’t go anywhere. Because I have to recharge,” he said.
County Economic Development Program Manager Stephanie Maack said of her boss and friend, “Tim chose economic development as a profession as a way to give back to people. He used to say he was responsible for over 450,000 lives (Pinal County population) and helping to make their quality of life better. He was the biggest cheerleader for the County, municipalities, and the clients he worked with.”