Interview by Rock Earle
GC LIVING: It seems the county has taken a really aggressive, positive stance on marketing. It’s the optics, the vision, look and feel, and shouting about your strengths. Hopefully out of that process comes economic development. That hasn’t always been the case.
GREG STANLEY: I’ll go first. In 2014, Tony Smith was the Chairman of the Board of Supervisors, and I had just started as county manager. We just finished a strategic planning process. We had done strategic plans in the past, but I would say that the 2014 strategic plan dramatically changed our focus. Previous plans were in doing things fast and more efficient. The more recent ones have been very much focused on creating jobs and what can we do to help facilitate the creation of jobs within Pinal County. That was 2014-17. We re-upped it more in the new 2017-2020 strategic plan. It still has that same focus but I think even more expanded and we grew the team that’s participating in our strategic planning process.
GC LIVING: So is it coincidental to say that the new emphasis happened with your arrival?
GREG STANLEY: I think it naturally occurred as things change, don’t you, Tim?
TIM KANAVEL: For me as economic development manager, it all changed when we went from three supervisors to five. The new five-member board made economic development a priority. And part of it is marketing. We’re marketing in the United States to around 3,220 county equivalents. What makes us different? Why Pinal County? We are different from any other county within Arizona or the United States. You have to market that difference and that’s the reason why we always answer the question, “Why Pinal County?” All of our marketing says that, “Why should you choose Pinal County?” You can see the result of the marketing efforts with these different projects we’ve been able to attract. That would have never have happened if we didn’t market.
TIM KANAVEL: It was a change in leadership and that leadership actually wanted to create good paying jobs. We’ve adopted six targeted sectors. They’re stable, sustainable and they pay well. Everything we’ve been able to attract within the last few years was within those targeted sectors.
GC LIVING: Looking through your 2017-2020 strategic plan there are action steps and plans everywhere. Is that what you’re saying changed?
GREG STANLEY: One of the complaints that the board would hear from developers was that it took long to do this and that. A lot of it was focused internally on how can we be more efficient in turnaround times? You know someone wants a building permit. How can we turn it around quicker? This really did change and was much more focused on how can we create jobs and improve our transportation system.
GC LIVING: Most strategic plans sit on the shelf, but this one seems to be a real active one.
TIM KANAVEL: Oh yes! You can follow it and see we’re going right through it. You can get sidetracked so easily and start going every direction. This keeps us on task and moving straight. We know this works. When you can bring down the unemployment level from 13.2 percent in 2009 to 4.1 percent, we must be getting fairly close.
GREG STANLEY: We routinely sit down and follow up with the team leaders. I have one of the board members that’s always involved in those meetings.
GC LIVING: Which one?
GREG STANLEY: It’s Tony Smith, and he’s done it since the start. We sit down and monitor our progress and make adjustments.
GC LIVING: This type of marketing is generally seen as very positive and something that everybody needs to do and yet it’s questioned in certain circles. What’s the deal with that from your point of view?
GREG STANLEY: This whole discussion about marketing started when it seemed everything reported was negative. For example, several years back right before Memorial Day the articles in the newspaper were about snipers sitting on mountaintops taking out people in Pinal County. That’s not the kind of publicity you need going into a three-day weekend when you have all kinds of great assets to show off. That’s when we got into discussions on how can we move toward positive news stories.
TIM KANAVEL: When we first started people said, “There’s nothing to do … there’s nothing here…” What the board and the county manager have done is consolidate everything into a solid, comprehensive marketing effort. One of the biggest things we’ve been able to accomplish is encompassing and marketing the county as a whole, not necessarily in individual parts.
GREG STANLEY: When Lucid Motors announced to us privately they were coming to the Casa Grande area, the people we were talking to said, “It’s real easy to find information about Sedona, or things to do in the Phoenix area, but what is there to do in Pinal County?” That really helped us focus on all the great and positive things in Pinal County. The first video we produced really helps to showcase Pinal County.
GC LIVING: Let’s talk about both the video and print pieces. We’re in the print business. We love print. We look at and feel the paper. There’s always an economic development aspect in Golden Corridor LIVING. Your promotional piece is included in this edition so our readers can see how effective it is. Talk about the process and how that made you rethink what you’re doing.
TIM KANAVEL: This is actually our second version. Marketing goes stale really, really quick. We updated it. It’s indicative of the technology we’re pursuing. Even the front page is technology. It also details again, “Why Pinal County?” We also included inserts that talk about many of the things we’re working on: recreation, tourism, Arizona@Work. And here’s our bragging page, testimonials from some of the companies that are already here and that we work with all the time. It’s pretty down to earth, and it deals with our targeted sectors of transportation and logistics, manufacturing, health services, aerospace and defense, natural and renewable resources and tourism. In 2019, we look to add innovation and technology.
It’s increasing quality of life. Better jobs, better opportunities. We’re trying to relieve some of the poverty. You do that by attracting good paying companies that are sustainable. When manufacturing and industry puts a billion dollars into a project, they don’t just walk away from it over night. You know they’re going to be here a while. The average yearly income in Pinal County is still less than $35,000. Some of the jobs we’re getting now, the minimum wage is $55,000 a year.
GREG STANLEY: One of the other things we did with this new version of print media is we created inserts so cities and towns or even chambers could use this template and can tailor it to their needs.
TIM KANAVEL: Plus we have English and Spanish versions.
GC LIVING: I’m glad you brought up tourism because we do a lot of work for destination marketing organizations and it’s provable if you dig in the statistics that destination marketing also has a sense of economic development. You will bring the CEO in who golfs or stays at a boutique hotel or has a great experience at a unique destination. Economic development marketing bleeds into tourism. We think it’s important to have that integrated in the whole package and the best videos have a little bit of all of it covered. That makes me think about the video you produced and the recreation piece you have here. Tell us a little bit about it and how it feeds economic development.
GREG STANLEY: I think part of it was missing when Lucid Motors mentioned, “What is there to do in Pinal County?” I think that is really when we started talking about different topics for the videos.
TIM KANAVEL: The second video is about food. They filmed all over the county. There’s a bunch of foodies out there who love to go and eat different places. So this is an opportunity for them. The next will be on hiking and outdoor activities.
GC LIVING: As an adjunct to that are the kind of print pieces for tourism.
TIM KANAVEL: Our tourism piece will probably be its own brochure. Tourism is a base industry. You know people bring money in from somewhere else and spend it here. And we love that. Tourism is an industry just like manufacturing. It’s not just for tourists, the Sheriff is going to use it to recruit employees. Some of the chambers are using it for the same thing. We need to get people here. We need to boost up our workforce. And that’s one of the ways to do it.
GREG STANLEY: Print media yes. Also social media. We know that is a huge audience. We try to keep these videos short enough to make them attractive on social media as well.
TIM KANAVEL: We’re active on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. We’re adding Foursquare.
GC LIVING: Some locations can’t get economic development so they focus on tourism. Every place has a different path, but you have a totally integrated view. We realize how tourism and destination marketing affects hiring and inbound tourists. In many senses tourism dollars are the least impactful dollars you can generate. Tourism is the cleanest thing.
TIM KANAVEL: We like tourism because we don’t have to pay to build Picacho Peak. Same for the rivers and trails on the east side. That’s the great thing about our ecotourism. All this stuff’s already here.
GREG STANLEY: You know things like the Anza Trail, that’s a historic trail. Limited costs for us — put up some signage. The state trails goes through our county.
GC LIVING: Pinal County is always overshadowed by Phoenix and Tucson. That’s not fair. You have great things to shout about. But nobody knows about it. Even our own residents don’t know. And they also don’t know what you’re doing to attract new business.
TIM KANAVEL: I wouldn’t say who, but in 2012 when we had a bunch of people running for county supervisor several didn’t know the Biosphere is in Pinal County. There’s people in Pima County who don’t know Biosphere’s in Pinal County because Tucson has always marketed it. Pinal County never had, and that was embarrassing to us.
GREG STANLEY: One thing that was a real eye-opener for me was when I was in California, in Coronado, at the military installation there. They had a bird-watching event one morning. I told the lady who led it where I was from and she didn’t know anything about Pinal County. But when I mentioned the bird-watching area along the San Pedro River, she said, “Oh, one of the best places in the world.” Here’s a woman from San Diego who knew the area as one of the best bird-watching areas in the whole world. That’s the information people don’t know when they say, “That’s in Pinal County?”
GC LIVING: Let’s switch focus a little bit for an update on where all the prospects are right now and what’s new on the horizon.
GREG STANLEY: One of the big ones in operation right now is the biogas facility in Stanfield. If you go out there, you can see the four big domes. Looks like a nuclear power plant out there, but it’s actually four digesters. They take cow manure and turn it into natural gas and pump it into the pipeline. You couple that with the ethanol plant, and you have corn energy in Maricopa. And with all the solar we’ve got assembled on the drawing board, soon Pinal County is going to be the biggest producer of green energy in the state of Arizona.
Lucid Motors just had a big announcement about securing funding from Saudi investors. I’d say myself, Larry Rains and others have routine teleconferences with them that are all very positive. And Nikola Motors announced moving its manufacturing facility location from Buckeye to Coolidge. Pinal County will soon have the corner on transportation manufacturing in Arizona.
TIM KANAVEL: Severtson Screen, they make movie screens for AMC, Harkins Theatres, big, big movie screens. They also make the 3D ones. They’re moving to San Tan Valley. I believe they’re going to be starting the permit process soon. They are the largest family-owned movie screen manufacturer in the United States. They’re rather large, and they make some giant screens. The biggest I think they said was 200 feet by 253 feet. We’re working with several other companies that we can’t divulge details.
It is all because of our aggressive marketing. People are starting to take notice and say we are a good alternative to either the Phoenix or Tucson metro areas. We have lots of available land. And our unique key is that we have a lot of rail-served land available. And that’s what we’d like to see for Union Pacific.
GC LIVING: When someone reaches out to you, how long does the process typically take from the initial inquiry to announcing it?
TIM KANAVEL: I have seen it take anywhere from days to months or years. It all depends on the company itself. Some companies keep everything quiet and hush-hush, and others are so outgoing about marketing immediately because they are so competitive. We’ve been working on Severtson Screens for three years now. Lucid has also been three years. The bigger the manufacturing and more money their capital, the longer it takes. When you’re talking a billion dollar plus project, those folks take their time. We’ve been waiting on the project near Picacho Peak with the rail yard for twelve years now and I don’t know if it will ever get done. But when the economy drives Union Pacific to needing it, it will happen. We’ve got one company we’re working with right now that needs 55 railcar loads a day. That’s extraordinary.
GREG STANLEY: We’ve got rail and a lot of land, so let’s focus on the agriculture-like stuff, natural removal resources, manufacturing and transportation logistics. Those are the natural areas to pick. And that’s what this is all working into.
GC LIVING: Where are we as far as prospects? Are they up? Are they dwindling?
TIM KANAVEL: We have never really decreased, it just stays steady. We’ve picked those six targeted sectors because this is what our county can do. We didn’t pick the high time, pie-in-the-sky things like extremely high-tech and bio-tech. We don’t have the workforce or locations for those sectors.
GC LIVING: One thing Supervisor Smith has talked about in conversations — the price Pinal County land is in comparison to other areas. Is it half?
TIM KANAVEL: Sometimes it’s even less.
GREG STANLEY: The reason why we don’t ever put numbers out there is there’s some real stiff rules about real estate and how to talk about it and what you can say. So all we ever say is, “OK. Here’s the land. Here’s the guy who represents it. You go talk to them.” And that keeps you out of trouble. That happened a few times with the state.
GC LIVING: I’m a land broker, if you compare our rail served sites with other potential sites, with a similar type of entitlements – you’re looking at the west Valley. You’re looking at Buckeye and BNSF. I see it totally something like twenty to thirty cents on the dollar sites versus sites up in the metro Valley area. That’s the rule of thumb. Prices up there are not good now.
GREG STANLEY: You’re absolutely right. And when we’re talking to people, we say very affordable.
TIM KANAVEL: I used to say cheap. You don’t like me to say that.
GREG STANLEY: (laughs) It’s not cheap, it’s affordable.
TIM KANAVEL: But it is. And that’s one of the reasons why different companies have said, “Wow, there is a huge price difference, and we still get the same workforce.” We do maps and graphs all the time — population maps. If you take where Interstates 8 and 10 meet, in a 50-mile radius, some 2.1 million people live in the circle. In economic development terms of your given population a third is your workforce. There’s 700,000 people within a 50-mile radius of that intersection. We can get about any workforce we need from the southern part of Phoenix, the northern part of Tucson, Marana and Oro Valley.
GREG STANLEY: One of the things that’s changed in the last few years as well is people saying there’s no workforce in Pinal County. We hear that all the time, so we’re working as hard as we can to change that image. One of the great things that happened that was a tremendous stroke for us was creating our own ARIZONA@WORK Pinal in Casa Grande. That took the state and the governor for it to happen. It’s in our strategic plan. We used to be partnered with Gila County, and its focus on economic development is very, very different. We really give a lot of credit to Supervisor Miller and the people we have that sit on that board because they helped facilitate making the change at the state level to get our own work force board focused just on Pinal County.
GC LIVING: And didn’t one of your staff get an award associated with that?
GREG STANLEY: Yes. Joel Millman. He received Workforce Practitioner of the Year for the entire state. His category wasn’t divided up into small, medium, and large. His was for the entire state. To get that he competed against everyone in all fifteen counties, plus the state office people. That was quite an achievement on his part. It was quite an achievement for Pinal County to be able to hire Joel. When we were going through this process of splitting up the Workforce Board, he was helping us through that process. When we made the announcement, and were recruiting for it, I heard he put his name in. I said, “We’ve got to get him. Whatever it takes. We’ve got to get this guy.”
TIM KANAVEL: He’s really good at it. We had a project that we’re working on, and these folks didn’t need 9,000 people over a period of 20-years. They need 90,000 employees over 20-years. It’s a bigger company. And I call him up and he never even blinked. That’s the guy I want to work with because most people would have a stroke and run out the door screaming. And he was like, “Well, we’ll have to do this.” He had the whole plan right then.
GC LIVING: That’s an example of background work the average guy on the street doesn’t know about. I didn’t know and I’m as clueless as anybody. I didn’t know about any of the workforce development emphasis you’re making. No one shouts about it, including you guys. And speaking of awards, I was going wait to the last to cap this off with the awards competition. You guys are winning all kinds of awards for your efforts.
TIM KANAVEL: We applied for one this fall too, our brochures and videos have a pretty good chance of getting it because it is so unique.
GC LIVING: Greg, why don’t you brag about Kavavel for a bit – Mr. Economic Development.
GREG STANLEY: Tim is the focal point for a lot of this. He’s been with the county nine years now and he really has dragged us all kicking and screaming, but Tim will be the first to say, “Oh, this is a big team effort and we’re all working together,” but Tim really is the face of it. He’s our biggest cheerleader and I can’t say enough good things about him.
GC LIVING: He talks a lot though…
GREG STANLEY: He does talk a lot (laugh).
TIM KANAVEL: You have to. Hey, 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. At work you’re always on. So at home, I just don’t talk to a soul. (laughs)
GC LIVING: Let’s talk a little bit about areawide economic development. Now I’ve been around this for a long time, and whenever it’s not regionalized, all the smaller constituents think, “Oh let’s band together, pool our resources and have a bigger footprint.” So they do, and then the bigger footprint gets out there, and then they start squabbling about, “Well I spent this much, I’m not getting this much.” And it seems to erode. But you’re changing the regionalization game. Let’s talk about that a little bit and how that is balanced out.
GREG STANLEY: I’ve always approached business in government saying you’ve got to cooperate. You get along and it helps float everybody’s boat. We’re big believers in that. We’ll go and sit with GPEC (Greater Phoenix Economic Council) and Maricopa County. We meet with Pima County and talk. At the same time, we’re making this effort to reach out with all of our cities and towns — anyone we can meet with to try and help improve and work on the relationship and coordination among all of us. We do hear comments in cities saying, “What good does it do me?” That’s a constant. But trying to continue to foster that cooperation — if it helps one community, it’s going to help the county as a whole.
TIM KANAVEL: That’s probably been the hardest message to convey, no matter where a business locates in this county, it benefits us all. People are so territorial. If it doesn’t happen on their street, it’s no good for them. And that’s one of the biggest, probably the biggest problem we deal with, these communities, because we didn’t help them directly. I’ve said, “It isn’t all Casa Grande but they’ve got two interstates and the main railroad. I’m sorry you don’t have that. You need to be your own unique self.” And some of the cities have actually taken it to heart. They now have economic development personnel. I work with each and every one of them and help in a variety of ways.
GC LIVING: One of the reasons I asked that question is because I know you are some of the most inclusive people I’ve seen in the environment. It’s the concept of fungibility. Sites are not the same. Ten acres in Casa Grande isn’t the same as ten acres anywhere else. There are no two sites alike unless you have two pieces next to each other that are fundamentally the same. And even then, this one’s further from the utilities and that one’s closer to the interstate – So the whole concept that Casa Grande has something that another community really should have is just ludicrous. Anything that locates anywhere in Pinal County, we are all going to be better off. That’s my opinion.
TIM KANAVEL: When I first started, we had so many different economic development groups all over the county. Now we don’t hardly have any. Because the county is taking over what those organizations used to do. Everyone had their own agenda. They didn’t care about the rest of the county. I think part of it was we only had three supervisors. That’s a huge area for three people. Now we have five and that has settled things out just a little bit because they don’t have such a big area to take care of.
GREG STANLEY: Pete Rios still has a district about the size of Rhode Island. There’s four incorporated communities up there plus San Manuel and Oracle that are not incorporated. You’ve got San Tan Valley, Gold Canyon and Saddlebrook that are unincorporated. Those are the counties’ responsibility to market them. We help market with the city because guess where those unincorporated residents go to shop? They go to shop in the cities. It behooves us to help everybody work together.
GC LIVING: It’s a domino effect.
GREG STANLEY: If I may go back to our strategic plan. One of the items we are trying to focus is on what can we do for those areas that are more economically depressed? We are working very hard now trying to get something going in San Manuel and we have had some positive calls.
TIM KANAVEL: Our business assistance program is countywide and is available to any qualified business within the county. We’ve done two so far. One is in Casa Grande, Abbott Labs. The other one is Applegate Insulation located in the county. We are currently working on a third.
GC LIVING: One of the big things we have to talk about is tourism, and what is the future for the Copper Corridor in economic development and job growth and also tourism. How do you market that destination? Tourism?
TIM KANAVEL: You picked it, tourism. It’s going to be about the Copper Corridor.
GREG STANLEY: The Copper Corridor and the people who live there would say why market this? Why? Because it is already our open space. We see that as being a tremendous tourism mecca for this county. Anyone who has been to Aravaipa and hiked through the canyon, it’s a gorgeous piece of the county that most people don’t recognize. We think it’s ecotourism.
GC LIVING: There are all kinds of recreational stuff along the San Pedro, it is beautiful. Is there any chance for anything other than mining and mineral extraction in your forecast?
TIM KANAVEL: The power source out there is adequate for what they’ve currently got, but not for more manufacturing. They don’t have water resources and they also don’t have the workforce. In that whole Copper Corridor region, it’s only has about 15,000 people. There is a brand new casino and it’s going to get bigger. They’re going to be hiring people, and they already have a whole lot of people available to hire. A lot of people are coming out of Tucson or Oro Valley, Catalina area because there just isn’t available people.
That is not an area that’s going to be big for manufacturing and not really big for retail. You need to have a specific number of people to be able to have successful retail. And they don’t have that critical mass. It’s going to be mining for quite a few years. The Superior Mine route and Resolution Copper. That’s projected 60-plus more years — decades and generations. We are working on a project at one of the former mine sites that’s going to be a little bit different. They do have access to a lot of APS power and also water.
GREG STANLEY: It’s a very interesting project, extremely high-tech. High-tech plus high wages. A low number of employees, but big capital investment.
TIM KANAVEL: Fortune 500 company. Not a whole lot of employees, but the average wage they said is $121,000 a year. When it gets announced, we think we have a really good shot at it.
GC LIVING: One of the big elephants in the room is transportation. And I think the RTA (Regional Transportation Authority) is a huge plus. Although, even in our town, there is this whole sense of, “Oh, we pay taxes but we don’t get our share back.”
GREG STANLEY: The regional transportation plan was approved on the November ballot, as well as the half cent sales tax funding-mechanism. Right now it’s going through litigation, being argued in the tax courts. We feel very positive about where we are; we’re sure the brochure was very self-explanatory. We feel pretty confident it will go ahead. The regional transportation plan has a number of projects originally earmarked and then broken into four- or five-year chunks of priorities on what those projects would be. Many in the Casa Grande area are focused on economic development. One of the things we get with these project requests is coordinated access to freeways. We want to improve roadways in advance so industry can locate and have very easy access to the interstates. One of the things that’s always been lacking in our county is East-West connectors. People in Maricopa are very much focused on Maricopa County because that’s their access to where the jobs are. If we’re going to have jobs centered now around the I-10 and I-8 corridor, people in Maricopa will need to move east and west to get to those jobs. One of the big projects in the regional transportation plan is to get that connection going, as well as similar types of connections throughout the county. So more North-South as well as East-West.
TIM KANAVEL: Why do people from San Tan Valley go to Phoenix? Because it’s about impossible to get to Casa Grande. You have to go here, there and over the river and through the woods. There is no direct route. This new North-South freeway is going to eliminate a lot of that.
GREG STANLEY: The regional transportation plan includes access to freeways. I know a lot of people call it I-11, but I believe the technical name is the Inter-Mountain West Corridor. There is a larger I-11 coalition. We’re trying to use the regional transportation dollars to guide those decisions on alignment to where we think that freeway needs to go to best benefit Pinal County. We have our preferred alignment in the plan where we are working on the preservation of right-of-way.
TIM KANAVEL: It’s a very strategic process. The alignment he’s talking about will open up the western part of that county. Interstate 8 is currently empty. That would cease to be. We need to start building out that direction.
GC LIVING: As I sit here listening, I live here, I’m invested here in Pinal County. And I think there is a general sense of nothing is being done. And whenever something does locate here, that it’s an accident. I love this conversation — you guys are on it. You’re thinking about the effects marketing has on everything. I don’t think the people in general believe that.
TIM KANAVEL: I live here and I work here. I’m proud to say I’m from Pinal County when I’m out of town.
GREG STANLEY: I know when Terry Doolittle was the county manager, he talked about a survey of the citizens and asking them about county government and what they do. The answer overwhelmingly was they are there just to benefit themselves. We want to get out of that mentality and help make things better.
GC LIVING: It’s not just to change the perception of the world, but also your own people’s perception.
TIM KANAVEL: Best marketing we have are the residents of this county. We can buy ads anywhere, but the best marketing we have is the people who actually live here. Mike Knowles is a huge site-selector in Tennessee, he helped us with Tractor Supply. He told me that when he comes to a community, he sends his teams out ahead of time to explore the area. He said they never go to the economic people because they’re only going to say good things — same for the elected officials. He said they go to the person working at the Burger King or Dairy Queen, or go to the Walmart and ask them what they think about the community. He said they get a much better view of the public perception.
GREG STANLEY: The site-selector, he’s talking about after he did Tractor Supply he was amazed at how rapidly we were able to turn things around. When the Tractor Supply wanted to get the Foreign Trade Zone established between the City of Casa Grande and Pinal County, it was done in nine days. He said, “I never would’ve thought something like that could happen that quickly.”
TIM KANAVEL: And the people at Lucid said they chose us because we partnered with them. We answered phone calls morning, noon, night and on weekends because that’s what you do when prospects call. I don’t feel good, I’m on dialysis, I got a transplant. They don’t care. So you work and you perform and you get it done.
GC LIVING: Let’s get back to where things are. Talk a little about a couple of projects. For some reason, they’re all bogged-up in water issues. Talk about that situation.
GREG STANLEY: In Pinal County versus Maricopa county, we have a lot of private water suppliers. Because of the way the system is set up, they don’t have the incentive to proactively secure water the way a city does with its own municipal water service. It is a significant issue in our county. Last year the governor started a process to look into changes and updates to the 1980s water laws. We need to update our water codes in the state of Arizona. Our county is very dependent on ground water. We, the state and county need to encourage more recharge for our water so that it is available. We are also caught up in the Arizona Department of Water Resources ground water model. It needs to be reviewed and updated to look at what is already committed out on the 100-year assured water supply. A lot of water is currently tied up in projects that have not moved forward. The state needs to look at canceled projects that haven’t renewed.
GC LIVING: So would you say that the Legislature and the DWR are positively working on this? Or not?
GREG STANLEY: I think the discussion so far is very positive.
TIM KANAVEL: One of the things that I was tasked with a long time ago under former County Manager Terry Doolittle is to start looking for industries and business that are low water users. Our projects are not huge water users. We’ve been asked several times from the state about food-processing places. They are huge water users plus they are low wage — they are not part of our six targeted sectors. The only use Tractor Supply Distribution Center has for water is domestic restrooms. That’s a few thousand gallons a day with all those people. There is one prospect that even though it’s a billion gallons, it has very low usage as it’s in a loop system. You bleed out a few thousand gallons a day and replenish to keep it clean, but it isn’t a continual billion-gallon usage.
GC LIVING: That makes sense. What about the Mesa water farms. Is that still active?
TIM KANAVEL: That’s sold. Jackob Andersen with Saint Holdings bought or has options to all 12,000 acres of it at the southern end of Coolidge. Coolidge annexed that area in 2015.
GC LIVING: OK, so guys can you tell us in your own words what you think about your homes, jobs, your own county, your own thoughts, your own pictures.
TIM KANAVEL: It’s my responsibility to be able to attract businesses, retain those same businesses, market the county and develop opportunities so that our residents who want a better life and better educated children can keep their families here. Right now we have a significant brain drain. Our best and brightest go somewhere else because we’ve never provided those opportunities. That’s one of the things I want to see change. I want the opportunity for these families to be able to stay here together. You hear statements like, “My son had to move to…” to get a good paying job. The county has always been, up until just a few years ago, willing to accept any employment. We didn’t care how bad a job it was or how low paying. Now, while we don’t discourage those companies, we don’t encourage them. We want good-paying jobs. If they don’t pay a minimum $15.50 an hour, they don’t qualify for any of our incentive programs. Plus they need to pay benefits. This is one of the things we can do to raise the quality of life in this county. The Board of Supervisors certainly understand that. We’ll never be perfect but it’s something we’re striving for. One of our supervisors, Steve Miller is very fond of saying, “We quit being regulators, and we became facilitators.” And that’s exactly what we are.
One of the things about my job is it isn’t always necessarily to recruit business, but to make connections. I’ll connect this person with a vendor or that person with another company that may need their services. That’s what we’re doing in Mexico. Were now big in the Arizona-Mexico commission. Our finance director, Levi Gibson, is fluent, and he does all the marketing for us and is doing an incredible job. Pinal County is no longer just this county, were huge internationally now.
When Attessa announced, when Tractor Supply announced, Pinal County had media coverage in New York, in the Wall Street Journal and in Europe. Especially the racing news as that’s big in Europe. Those are the things to look at: “How do we do this locally, regionally, statewide, nationally and the big step — internationally?” Because that’s what our taxpayers deserve. And instead of treating this as an 8-5 job: Economic development is not an 8-5 job, it’s a 24-hour a day, 7-day a week job.
GREG STANLEY: (laughs) I would say, most people who go through transplants end up spending the rest of their life on disability. As soon as Tim got his transplant over, he couldn’t wait to get back to work.
GC LIVING: I know. I teased him about it in Tucson at the Arizona Association of Economic Development (AAED) meeting.
TIM KANAVEL: Doctors told me to take four to six months off. I spent three weeks. And actually I was making phone calls the night of the surgery.
GREG STANLEY: (laughs) You were incoherent, but you made phone calls.
TIM KANAVEL: I promised all kinds of stuff to somebody!
GREG STANLEY: I give much credit to our Board of Supervisors. They have really helped facilitate a lot of this change. I grew up in Phoenix, went to West Point and spent 26 and a half years in the Army. Everything in the Army is about teamwork. That’s something we continue to preach at Pinal County. In the Army when you were in a squad, you’d talk about those idiots at Platoon Headquarters. When you get into Platoon Headquarters, you talk about the idiots at Company Headquarter Unit, and so on. I don’t want us to be the idiots at the county. We believe in this team approach and making sure we’re working with our communities and fostering good relationships with the state. Thirty-five percent of our county is state land.
We’ve worked hard to try and improve our relationship with the state land department. Those are a few examples where we continue to work and stress positive communication.
GC LIVING: In any environment, communication is absolutely key. If you do the best job you can and no one knows it, something is missing. So we strive to be that marketing partner too.
TIM KANAVEL: If I have an issue, I can go right straight to Greg. That makes a big difference when need an answer right now, not tomorrow, not when he has time. There was an issue with Nissan Motors and we had to have an answer this second. And he just said, “yup.”
GREG STANLEY: It was a text.
TIM KANAVEL: (laughs) I texted him, he texted me. That solved the whole issue and that’s the reason why we got Nissan Motors.
GC LIVING: You guys really are the dynamic duo.
TIM KANAVEL: Oh we love to give presentations together. He’s the straight guy, then he turns me loose and I give everybody a scare.
GREG STANLEY: I give credit as well. Community Development Director Himanshu Patel’s approach is meeting with the developer and say, “you tell us what you want and we’ll figure out how to do it”. That’s where we want to be.
GREG STANLEY: That’s a good change.
TIM KANAVEL: When I first started in 2009, the county had 2,400 employees and now we have 1,800. The economy had tanked and we had to decrease numbers. I was brand new in a newly created position. Few people knew what I did or knew me. Terry Doolittle and Ken Buchanan did, but hardly anyone else did. The response was, “who are you, what are you doing and why are you doing it?” And now you’re making us change everything. But for me to do my job effectively, things had to change. It was the new Board of Supervisors in 2012 and then with Greg coming on board as County Manager that made things start to happen. It’s reflective with what we’ve done with the entire county.
GC LIVING: We think you’re doing a great job. Thank you.
GREG STANLEY: We appreciate it.
TIM KANAVEL: Thank you.
What does the announcement of Nikola Motors mean for both Coolidge and the region?
This is an incredible opportunity for not only the City of Coolidge and the county but for the entire region and state. This project will have international implications as this cutting-edge technology develops worldwide. With nearly 2,000 high paying jobs with great benefits coupled with the company centrally locating within the county — this makes a great opportunity to continue our “Live, Work and Play” mantra. More and better homes, better education opportunities, better retail shopping and other employment opportunities all add up to a better quality of life for Pinal County residents.
When working with projects of this size, typically how long is the process from idea to announcement?
We go as fast as the client wants to go is the short answer. The long answer is that many factors determine how long the project takes from the day we receive the initial call until it is a viable project under construction or production. Those factors would include: Is the company funding in place to go forward immediately, is the land properly zoned, is the needed infrastructure in place — do we need to build roads, run sewer, run water, etc., and how far, — do the clients want an existing building or a Build to Suit (BTS), is the needed workforce available already or will extensive training be needed, is the required permitting in place because federal and state permits may take some time to be approved? These and many other factors have a direct effect on how long it takes to get a project off of the ground.
How important is it for developers and communities to invest in infrastructure to such attract projects?
Just behind available workforce, infrastructure is the biggest concern for all the companies. Whether in the unincorporated county or in an incorporated city or town, most clients prefer to have a site that is considered “shovel ready” meaning everything is in place to get the project going. The proper zoning is in place, water, sewer, electric, natural gas is also in place.
The “perfect scenario” is to have the needed acres of industrial, commercial and retail all shovel ready — but that is rarely the case. Communities and the county constantly have to upgrade infrastructure to be able to handle ongoing progress. One big example for infrastructure improvements we at the county are constantly working on are our roads (the RTA is an example): Our roads not only handle commercial traffic but also need to be adequate to be able to get our workforce from home to their place of work more easily, families to shopping, church, school, etc. The local utility companies are constantly upgrading respective delivery systems to reflect growth of residential, retail, industrial and commercial opportunities.