Workforce development and infrastructure top priorities for Pinal County Mayors

From left Superior Mayor Mila Besich, Maricopa Mayor Christian Price, Florence Mayor Tara Walter, Eloy Vice Mayor Micah Powell, Coolidge Mayor Jon Thompson, Casa Grande Mayor Craig McFarland, and moderator Jordan Rose, Rose Law Group Founder and President

By Callan Smith | Rose Law Group Reporter

Pinal County has seen some big wins such as Nikola Motor Company coming to Coolidge and Lucid Motors locating in Casa Grande. When mayors gathered together this morning, infrastructure and workforce development were top points at the Pinal Partnership panel, moderated by Jordan Rose, Rose Law Group founder and president.

Casa Grande is working with ASU and Central Arizona College to develop programs that will provide technology certifications for workers, and the city is looking at building a technology training center, Mayor Craig McFarland said.

Lucid and Nikola are expected to bring 4,000 jobs to Pinal County, along with the expected ancillary businesses, such as medical practice that recently moved to Coolidge in preparation for the growth, Mayor Jon Thompson said.

Widening of the I-10 between Phoenix and Casa Grande has been a big success. ADOT had the project slated for 2029. Now 10 million has been allocated by the state legislature to do the initial study and environmental impact. Once that’s done, funding will need to be acquired for the project, McFarland said.

For Maricopa, infrastructure is key with the addition of economic development. The city was incorporated 16 years ago and has a population of roughly 50,000.

“Building a city from scratch is really fun and it’s also really hard, there’s never enough money or resources to go around,” Mayor Christian Price said.

The city needs roadways, infrastructure, services and retail to accommodate the growing populations, especially considering housing growth that’s returned to Maricopa. The city has seen building permits go up to 100 a month.

“Valley wide across the Phoenix metro area, 42 percent of permits last year came from Maricopa for single-family homes,” Price said.

The Apex Motor Club has been big for the city, drawing car enthusiasts, which has led to an increase in property values and infrastructure.

Vice Mayor Micah Powell said Eloy is also looking at how they can diversity economic development along with the challenge of funding for water and sewer lines.

“We rely to much on our prisons and truck stops,” with the prisons bringing in the biggest property tax.

Superior needs housing for the Resolution Copper workforce.

“We’re a hudred-year-old town that needs a lot of infrastructure to accommodate the growth that’s coming our way,” Besich said.

Recently the city saw the opening of the Hotel Magma with 21 rooms, and the Barmacy restaurant, which are a corner stone of downtown. Mayor Besich noted a hotel feasibility study, showing a need for 60 rooms, as they get ready for the ramp-up of resolution copper.

Maricopa’s 55 million 347 overpass is coming on line, and is being constructed in three phases. The second phase will be ready for drivers to use mid-July, says Price. The project will be completed in November 2019.

“It only took eighteen months to construct, but fifteen years to line up the funding, which tells you how long these road projects take,” Price said.

For Florence the smart city initiative is underway, partnering locally, statewide and internationally.

“We’re on the cutting, leading edge,” Mayor Tara Walter said.

Not only are they working on smart metering, the city has cybersecurity to protect the data of the town and citizens.

“Long term effects will be easier readings, easier connections, you’re going to know what is going on when it is going on in real time,” Walter said.

Casa Grande also has a new recreation center that is the last piece of a bond passed in 2006. It’s an 18.2-million-dollar project and 55,000 square feet with land donated by the Gilbert family.

The success going on in Pinal County has brought a lot of excitement and a positive environment,” said Powell.