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Pinal Partnership

Gov. Doug Ducey, running for re-election, addresses the Pinal Partnership. Photo by Michelle Chance

Gov. Doug Ducey highlighted a major project in Maricopa during a Friday morning networking event in Casa Grande.

The discussion happened at The Property Conference Center June 1. The event was hosted by Pinal Partnership.

Ducey said he wants to bring “commitment for resources” toward infrastructure projects in the region like Maricopa’s future State Route 347 overpass.

“State Route 347 (overpass) is going to be traveled every morning and every evening,” Ducey said. “It can use some investment.”

The $55 million project was partially funded from the city, the Arizona Department of Transportation and a $15 million TIGER grant. The grade-separation is projected to transport motorists over the Union Pacific Railroad by 2019.

Ducey’s half-hour long speech touted legislative actions at the state level. On the top of the list were tax cuts and 160,000 new private sector jobs in Arizona since 2015, according to the governor.

“The last time unemployment was this low, you were renting your movies at Blockbuster,” Ducey said.

Education spending was also considered a victory.

Ducey approved funding for a 20 percent salary increase for teachers last month. One percent of that figure was dispersed to districts last school year.

“We just finished one of the most significant Legislative sessions in our state’s history. These are teachers that have earned this pay increase and they deserve it because Arizona children are improving faster in math and reading than any other kids in the country,” Ducey said.

Arizona is working to combat its challenges, according to its highest elected official.

Ducey outlined the state’s plan to combat the opioid addiction crisis that has stricken most of the country.

Tackling Arizona’s portion of the nation’s border security is an issue Ducey said requires a careful balance.

While combating human trafficking, drug cartels and illegal immigration at the Mexico border, Ducey said keeping a positive relationship with Arizona’s No. 1 trade partner is also priority.

“I don’t want to see us build a wall around the economy,” he said.

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Nancy Smith. Photo by Mason Callejas

As Maricopa continues to grow, local leaders must grapple with the multifaceted and often erratic march of economic development.

To achieve economic sustainability, local governments, businesses and community leaders have developed a roundtable of sorts – the Pinal Partnership – where ideas can be discussed and projects can be developed to better serve all of Pinal County.

Recently, Maricopa City Councilmember Nancy Smith was appointed a seat on the Board of Directors at the Pinal Partnership, a position she hopes will help create prosperity for both the city and the county.

“Since there is no one from Maricopa on the list of board members, we need somebody,” Smith said. “So, I couldn’t turn it down, because we’re such a big part of Pinal County.”

The partnership, Smith said, will help the city attack some of its largest obstacles including transportation issues such as the widening of SR 347 and the redrawing of the floodplain.

Per its website, “Pinal Partnership was formed to bring together all the people and ideas that will ultimately lead Pinal County to its full potential.”

Smith said she appreciates the retail and food industries that thrive in Maricopa. However, she hopes to see healthcare support services and professional services also come to town, regardless of the transportation or floodplain issues.

Smith, who has served on the city council since 2014, works as a program manager for General Dynamics. She is in charge of making sure projects meet budgetary requirements, an aptitude she feels carries over to her political career as well.

“At General Dynamics, I’m responsible for making sure a program comes in on budget or under budget,” Smith said. For the city, she added, “that’s [also] my purpose.”

When Smith and her husband, former Maricopa Mayor and current Pinal County Supervisor Anthony Smith, first moved to Maricopa 13 years ago they didn’t immediately get involved in politics. Instead, they focused on their faith and working to promote their church – Community of Hope.

After the city gained its incorporation, the Smiths began focusing their political scope, closely following Maricopa’s first mayor and city council. Soon thereafter they became entranced with local politics and while her husband was mayor, Smith sat back and learned all she could about local governance.

In 2014 a two-year seat opened up on council, so Smith took the opportunity to get try out her political legs a bit.

“I thought, ‘that’ll just give me a taste of what it’s like, and I’ll be helping the community and serving the community as well,’” Smith said. “And, I fell in love with it.”

When offered the position at Pinal Partnership, Smith already knew Maricopa lacked representation in the partnership, thus making it an easy decision.

Other members of the board include Pinal County Supervisors Todd House and Steve Miller, Global Water President Ron Fleming, Apache Junction Councilmember Robin Barker, and the board’s chairman Jordan Rose of Rose Law Group.

“Ayers Lake at Sunset,” by Sue Cullumber

Pinal Partnership Open Space & Trails Committee announced the latest winners of the ongoing series of photography contests. A Maricopan took third place.

The theme of the latest contest was “Water in Pinal County.” The contest was conducted on the Committee’s Facebook page, with the most likes determining the winners.

First place went to “Ayers Lake at Sunset,” which Sue Cullumber photographed at Boyce Thompson Arboretum. In second place was “The Superstitions with Double Rainbows,” by Mark Bennett. Taking third was Darcy Edl, who photographed “Water Droplets” in her backyard in Rancho El Dorado.

Pinal Partnership and Boyce Thompson Arboretum donated prizes to the winners. See more photos at Pinal Partnership Open Space & Trails Committee Photo Contest/Group.

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Economist Elliott Pollack is bullish on the local economy for 2017.

Arizona economist Elliott Pollack presented his annual forecast for the 10th year for Pinal Partnership at its Dec. 9 breakfast meeting at Rawhide. His predictions include:

■ 2017 will see exciting economic growth.

■ Donald Trump’s tax plan will not pass.

■ Expect faster growth and higher interest rates.

■ Expect higher inflation and higher after-tax profits.

■ A mild recession is likely in the next four years.

■ Pinal County is seeing the growth it needs with pending Lucid Motors, Attessa Motorsports and PhoenixMart.

■ Expect more announcements of businesses moving to Arizona.

■ International trade is one of the biggest issues facing the United States in 2017. “The last thing we need is a trade war.”

■ Arizona needs to closely watch its important trade with Mexico under the new president.

■ Up to 80 percent of existing businesses will comprise most of the job growth in Arizona.

■ Student debt is the top reason people under 35 don’t buy a home.

■ Baby boomers are prepared to sell their homes and live off equity, creating a large market for apartments.

■ 60.5 percent of American adults own their homes.

■ The largest group of homeowners is between 65 and 84 years old.


This article appears in the January issue of InMaricopa.

Pinal Partnership Open Space &Trails Committee is asking all photographers – amateur and professional – to send in their photos for the latest Treasures of Pinal Photo Contest. The new theme is “Landscapes in Pinal County.”

To enter the contest, post your best landscape shot at https://www.facebook.com/groups/473068776178737/

The contest is running Oct. 1-Nov. 30. Judging will be by the committee. Photos will be judged on content and Facebook “likes.”  Winners will be announced by Dec. 31.

Read the rules

Photos from the previous “Summer Flowers” photo contest are hanging at Maricopa Ace Hardware.

Harold Christ will be the president/CEO of Pinal Partnership starting in January. Melissa Johnson was brought in as executive director in August.

Leadership is changing at Pinal Partnership. In January, the organization will have a new president/CEO to go with a new executive director.

Sandie Smith, who has been president and CEO since 2008, will hand over the title current board chairman Harold Christ. Smith will serve as ambassador for Pinal Partnership.

Melissa Johnson was named executive director in August.

Christ has been a land developer in Pinal County for the past 40 years. He was the original developer of Gold Canyon Ranch, a 3,300-acre master planned community – the first master planned community to be approved and developed in Pinal County. In 2000 he acquired the property that is now The Windmill Winery in Florence where he and his wife host over 250 weddings a year.

He is a survivor of multiple economic down turns and continues his role as visionary for his company and Pinal County.

“Harold has served as the chairman of the board so well and provided amazing leadership that it just seemed appropriate to have him serve as the president of the Partnership,” said Jordan Rose, president and founder of Rose Law Group and one the founding members of Pinal Partnership. His unique background and continued success will help raise the organization and Pinal County as a whole to the next level.”

Christ will continue to serve as chairman until the Executive Board votes on a new chair, as early as December of this year.

Johnson comes to the Partnership with years of experience in online marketing and journalism. She

“The members of Pinal Partnership are our strength,” Christ said. “We have a renewed focus on maximizing the benefits of being a member, at any level, as well as raising our awareness and bringing on new members – which is exactly why we knew we had to have Melissa on our team. There are countless important things happening in Pinal County right now so getting more people involved in our efforts to move the county forward will benefit the entire state of Arizona.”

Johnson studied business and political science at Arizona State University and then spent almost eight years at Rose Law Group building her knowledge of government, business operations, the real estate industry and marketing. As executive director she will manage the Partnership’s marketing efforts and help the organization continue to grow with a focus on membership.

The Pinal Partnership Board of Directors thanked Edward Farrell for the dedication he has given to Pinal Partnership over the years. He is now employed by Earnhardt Chrysler Jeep Dodge Ram.

Economic consultant Elliott Pollack talks about the outlook for 2016 in Arizona at the Pinal Partnership monthly breakfast. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

Arizona is in an “overall positive” position economically moving into 2016, according to economic consultant Elliott Pollack.

Pollack presented his annual outlook at the Pinal Partnership breakfast Friday at Rawhide in Chandler.

He said recovery from the recession continues to be steady but slow, much like his 2015 outlook but a little better. He called Arizona’s recovery so far “significant.”

“It is only when we compare ourselves to previous Arizona recoveries that we look so bad,” Pollack said.

The room was full of business and government leaders from Pinal County wanting to hear the best forecast for the state and particularly the county.

According to economic studies, five years after recessions in the 1970s and ‘80s, the Phoenix area showed at least 40 percent employment growth. Five years after a recession in the ‘90s, job growth was 32 percent. Five years after the post-9/11 recession, job growth was 20 percent.

Five years after the bottom of the most recent recession, that number is at 13.9 percent.

With a recent unemployment report showing Arizona still lacks  more than 7 percent of the jobs lost to the recession, Pollack said it might be 2023 before economic growth returns to normal. The state’s population numbers will also be slow to recover, he predicted.

New norms are ruling the day for now.

Arizona’s job growth, which pre-recession was annually in the top 10 in the country, dropped to the bottom five three years in a row before climbing into the top 20. He said the disappearance of construction jobs accounted for 70 percent of the slowdown, and that industry remains tepid.

Construction businesses that are succeeding are having trouble finding skilled labor, Pollack said. Paying more to secure a skilled workforce will add to construction costs.

Jobs in general are dictating economic recovery.

The number of people moving to Arizona remains well off the pace of the state’s peak growth years. Those who are moving here are moving for jobs more than for retirement, Pollack said.

When Supervisor Anthony Smith asked about the growth prospects for Pinal County, Pollack said bringing in more jobs is the key to any real growth in the local economy.

“If you think it’s slow here, you should be in Europe and see what’s going on,” Pollack said.

American goods are more expensive overseas while imports are cheaper. He said that is an indication of the rising value of U.S.-made products. It also makes it a good time to indulge in foreign goods and foreign travel.

Manufacturers have accumulated excess inventory, mainly in the auto industry. Pollack said that makes this the perfect time to buy a car.