Mayor Christian Price took the theme of Wednesday night’s State of the City address – “Pure Imagination,” from the song in the movie Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory – and used it to highlight the city’s accomplishments over the past year. He also laid out a vision of a bright economic future, especially for those who favor growth and economic development in Maricopa.
The speech, delivered to a big crowd at Copper Sky and laden with candy and confection references, showcased a sweet vision for Maricopa, both now and in the future. Price also touched upon how the city can accomplish all the things on its wish list. In fact, he said, the city holds a “Golden Ticket” to success.
The mayor noted the city’s population has hit 70,000, a rapidly growing number that opens up many avenues to economic success.
“With new people and homes comes new everything else,” Price said. “It’s true that growth means change from what we are traditionally used to, and it also presents new challenges as well. But it also means greater prosperity for our residents as a whole. It means a better quality of life – new businesses, new industry and new jobs, all located here – as well as new and improved infrastructure everywhere we look.”
He cautioned residents against believing those who say slowing growth would benefit the city. The growing population will attract new businesses to town and allow the city to increase sales tax revenue and continue its record of lower property taxes, he said. In addition, the tax burden will be shared by residents and visitors, not just property owners.
“Since taking office in 2012, the city has almost tripled the amount of sales tax revenue it takes in, because of our robust economic development thrust,” he said. “This effort helped provide a subsequent expansion of stores and retail locations that did not previously exist in Maricopa.”
In the past four years, he added, the city has added 1.68 million square feet of new retail and commercial space that diversifies business offerings, increases competition and drives down the cost of retail space.
The bottom line is higher revenues and lower taxes, he said.
“The goal of this city council is to keep growing the overall revenue pie but shrinking your overall tax burden,” he said. “And I’m going to say it again – growth in Maricopa is a win-win for everyone who lives or does business in this city.”
Price offered a number of examples of how growth is positively impacting the city, including:
- The new Exceptional Community Hospital opening soon.
- A new medical campus under consideration for Copper Sky, which could include a hospital with up to 180 beds as well as a behavioral and sports medicine academy, condominiums and office space.
- The East-West Corridor, which will connect State Route 347 with Interstate 10. The four-lane parkway will include a new bridge over the Santa Rosa Wash on Porter Road and a second entrance to the city with its connection to I-10 and Casa Grande.
- The expansion of the intersection of Smith-Enke Road and John Wayne Parkway, scheduled to start in the spring of 2022.
- The improved relationship with the Gila River Indian Community and prospects for expansion of SR 347, as well as nearly $150 million in potential funding for the project – about two-thirds of the projected cost estimate.
- The availability of plenty of water through their combined efforts with Global Water Resources. (The city currently uses only 7,000 of its annual 23,000-acre-feet allotment.)
- Construction of a new 20,000-square-foot police station, set to begin in January.
Councilmember Rich Vitiello said he is a fan of the expansive State of the City event, which features a different theme every year and a certain measure of stage effect.
“I love it. It’s better than watching a guy standing there in a suit and tie,” he said. “This is theater, and the best thing about it – not one dime of taxpayers money. That’s the beauty of this event. And we wouldn’t get nearly this kind of turnout for an event in the council chambers.”
A host of large and small sponsoring businesses in Maricopa pay for the annual spectacle, which drew an estimated 600-700 people to the park’s amphitheater.
Vice Mayor Nancy Smith said the speech helped her reflect on the things the city has accomplished in the past year.
“I’m thrilled,” she said. “It’s really exciting to know that when you imagine something, you can actually start to put the pieces of it together and then eventually it formulates and you have all these new amenities, services, attractions, businesses for the people in Maricopa – and jobs. So, it’s really exciting.”
A good portion of Price’s excitement comes not from the already accomplished but from what’s coming. He identified a broad range of projects that will expand the city’s tax base, economic offerings and ability to attract both residents and visitors, including:
- A proposed surf park that could include indoor and outdoor restaurants, surf school, 180-room hotel, skate and BMX parks, retail shopping and a concert venue.
- The growth of tourism in the area through the city’s “Adventure Corridor” which features attractions including Apex Motor Club, skydiving, glider port, Ak-Chin Southern Dunes Golf Club, the surf park, Box Canyon shooting range, and other attractions.
- A competitive effort to attract facilities from a variety of billion-dollar corporations. Price said these companies could bring $1.5 billion-$2 billion in actual investment in the community, as well as the creation of “thousands of high-paying jobs.”
- A potential development called “The District at Copper Sky,” which could include, in addition to the proposed medical campus, a world-class soccer training facility and sports academy, a multi-purpose stadium, and a sports science and behavioral health facility.
Price described many possible projects in the works, and the projects that would follow, as “the domino effect of success leading to other successes and businesses leading to other businesses.”
He said that while many of the projects he mentioned will be built in phases, and some are still conceptual, their presence shows that Maricopa is ready for larger, more complex development.
“We’re ready to think outside the box and make a deal,” he said. “Where one developer falters, there are others that are ready to go. Tonight, we have seen once again that Maricopa is a place where the dreams of the impossible can and do become a reality. With hard work, dedication, perseverance and grit, we can make this a place where the golden tickets of success are available to all who want to be here.”
Watch the whole speech here: