Four of the most recently elected mayors in Central and Northern Arizona shared their views about economic development at the Arizona Association for Economic Development (AAED) forum on April 19 in Prescott.
Common themes included building better and stronger bridges among existing businesses and potential new businesses, creating more jobs to retain young people within their respective communities, and generating more support for schools and teachers.
An estimated 70 attendees from communities throughout the region heard Mayor Greg Mengarelli of Prescott; Mayor Tim Elinski of Cottonwood; Mayor Coral Evans of Flagstaff; and Mayor Craig Swarthwood of Payson describe aspirations for their communities in the next few years.
The mayors, all in their first-term, stressed the need to cooperate and support each other for the region’s benefit.
Prescott Mayor Greg Mengarelli outlined five priorities to increase economic prosperity: attracting new high tech business and industry; expanding Prescott municipal Ernest A. Love Airport; rejuvenating the Prescott Gateway Mall; supporting the four higher education institutions that have campuses in Prescott (Yavapai College, Prescott College, Northern Arizona University Yavapai and Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University); and enhancing the facilities and attractions that have defined Prescott as a tourist destination for national and international travelers.
“We all have a solid story to tell and solid communities to sell,” he said. “I am confident that as we work together and cooperate, all of us in this area will benefit from more jobs and a stronger economy.”
Cottonwood Mayor Elinski said his priorities include continuing the beautification efforts in historic “Old Town,” which has become a tourism attraction. He also emphasized that the Verde Valley is becoming the wine center of Arizona, which is leading to more diversified job opportunities.
“I have introduced a new mission statement: ‘Inspiring a vibrant community.’ I am committed to focusing upon improved educational opportunities and providing our citizens with a solid economic future,” he said.
Flagstaff Mayor Coral Evans envisions the future of Flagstaff as being connected to its strong scientific and astronomy base, coupled with an increasing interest in regional health care. She also advocates for strengthening the relationship with higher education, industry and tourism.
Payson Mayor Craig Swarthgood wants to focus on improving health care facilities and services for residents. He thanked Arizona Public Service for being a strong corporate partner in Payson, and said the utility company’s influence was especially significant in the improvement of the Main Street area.
He noted that a Canadian investor is planning to build what he termed “a sports prep school” to accommodate aspiring athletes.
“I like to think of Payson as a place where the [phrase] ‘adventure where we live’ describes our community lifestyle,” he said.
“It is apparent that all of these mayors ran on a strong economic development platform,” said AAED Executive Director Joyce Grossman. “We are delighted to have them share their vision for the future with us and we wish them continued success.” QCBN
By Ray Newton
Gathering for the Arizona Association for Economic Development forum in Prescott were speakers Joyce Grossman, AAED executive director; Prescott Mayor Greg Mengarelli; Cottonwood Mayor Tim Elinski; Payson Mayor Craig Swarthgood; Flagstaff Mayor Coral Evans; and Casey Rooney, Cottonwood economic development director.
Photo by Ray Newton