Arizona Department of Commerce’s assistant deputy director for community development, Mr. Tom Belshe, headlined the Economic Development Committee’s second “Destination Maricopa” meeting held yesterday at Headquarter’s restaurant. The “Destination Maricopa” area being analyzed, also referred to as “downtown,” is along John Wayne Parkway north and south of the railroad tracks.
Councilman Will Dunn, owner of Stage Stop Ol’ Time County Store and chair of the Economic Development Committee, facilitated the session and was the lone City official in attendance. Two of the other five members of the Committee, Ms. Mona Jones and Ms. Rosemary LeClercq, were among the 18 concerned citizens and members of the media who attended.
Mr. Belshe drew parallels of Maricopa’s opportunities to what other Arizona communities have done. He encouraged Maricopa to learn from other communities’ mistakes and to pay particular attention to some of the unique economic development approaches Benson, Cottonwood, Payson and
Councilman Dunn making a point. similar towns have successfully
Mr. Belshe also serves as executive director of the Greater Arizona Development Authority. He spoke in detail about the Authority and Department of Commerce-related programs such as Rural Economic Development Initiative and Main Street and mentioned the Arizona Office of Tourism as a potential resource.
Mr. Belshe affirmed the City’s $10,000 investment in the Greater Casa Grande Valley Economic Development Foundation as “money well spent.” He also complimented the organization’s executive director, Lori Gary, saying she was “one of the very best economic development professionals we work with.”
Department of Commerce’s Tom Belshe.
With the City looking to develop its General Plan in the next six months, Councilman Dunn emphasized the importance of public participation. “That General Plan will determine what our city looks like the next 20 years,” Councilman Dunn said. “The reason I’m having these meetings is to get input from the public. I want to make sure everyone has a chance to have input on where we’re going.”
Both Mr. Belshe and Councilman Dunn stressed the importance of residents taking an active role in the planning process by attending Council meetings and voicing their opinions. Mr. Belshe warned that citizen apathy is the biggest challenge communities like Maricopa face and referred to the general planning as “the most important thing that you will do as a community to determine your future.”
Despite the lack of concrete proposals presented at the meeting, Councilman Dunn said that at the next meeting, scheduled for August 13 at the First Baptist Church of Maricopa, the group will “quit talking and starting planning to do something with some of the ideas we are coming up with.”