A familiar voice in Pinal County hopes to bring job opportunities, revenue and fun to Maricopa in his new role.
Tony Smith has been appointed to the Southern Arizona Sports, Tourism and Film Authority by former Arizona Speaker of the House Rusty Bowers. Maricopa and Pinal County are considered southern Arizona for this committee.
Smith is a former Maricopa mayor and former member of the Pinal County Board of Supervisors.
The authority was created by the Legislature last year to promote economic development from tourism, using sports, film and other entertainment venues. Southern Arizona had a rich history of film and professional sports. Those industries have moved away in the past 20 years. Among the authority’s early projects is working to bring them back.
During his five-year term on the authority, Smith plans to scour Maricopa for new tourism and venue opportunities in hopes of increasing the regional and national draw to the county.
“I will work with local mayors, council members and economic-development groups in order to find ways in which we can elevate Pinal County,” Smith said. “I want to bring it to the next level.”
Smith is keeping an eye on the Apex Motor Club facility and Maricopa’s regional park, Copper Sky. With the continuing growth of the city, these facilities are only going to expand, he said.
“They’re going to revamp. I think there are greater plans to bring a higher level of sports to the county,” Smith said. “Maybe interject the possibility of professional alliances with some sports teams.”
The authority is interested in partnering with Maricopa to help move these ideas forward, according to Smith.
“We want to see if there’s a part we can play, maybe like removing some roadblocks that might be holding it back from being successful or to help marketing and promotion,” Smith said.
Facilities like Apex are a great resource for filming commercials and attracting out-of-towners. Copper Sky has endless potential for hosting events, concerts and festivals, he added. Smith even mentioned improving Maricopa’s Salsa Festival, making it bigger and more sustainable in the coming years.
“We are trying to figure out: How can we get people to stay in our hotels? Eat at our restaurants?” Smith said.
Increasing visitor stays and dollars spent will only benefit the city, creating more jobs and growth, according to Smith.
Although it may not be well known, Pinal County has been featured in several Hollywood films.
“There’s a lot of interest in the beauty of Pinal County and our landscape as far as film location,” Smith said. “And we have a number of other venues that you might not think about.”
Smith, also president and CEO of Pinal Partnership, said his work with the two entities will be mutually beneficial.
“I get around the county a lot,” Smith said. “I’m a good contact person and I can understand who the contacts are in Pinal County. So, it’s very consistent with my role as president of Pinal Partnership.”
The authority represents six counties in Southern Arizona: Cochise, Graham, Greenlee, Pima, Pinal and Santa Cruz. The Governing Board is composed of 13 people, including a representative from each county, three representatives from Native American tribes and four experts in filmmaking, tourism, sports and economic development.
Appointments are made by the Arizona Speaker of the House, the governor and the president of the state Senate.
“We’re all excited about the economic impact that this could have for generating tax revenue, help support the schools or business communities and provide some workforce opportunities for people who want to participate in the fun activities of tourism,” Smith said.