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  • Working with government partners helps us all succeed

    By John Moffatt, Economic Development Director

    I’ve written many times in this column about Pima County’s efforts to work with neighboring jurisdictions on economic development matters. That commitment holds for our private sector partners like Sun Corridor and other government partners like the cities and towns and taxing districts like Rio Nuevo

    John MoffattOur eagerness to work with other governments extends even beyond the borders of Pima County, as we have been actively working with our partners in Pinal County to market the underutilized Pinal Airpark.

    As anyone who has driven Interstate 10 north toward Phoenix knows, Pinal Airpark lies just over the Pima County line on the west side of the freeway where towering aircraft tailfins can be seen from miles away. The Airpark has a storied history, from the World War II era Army Air Corps Pilot Training Program to a clandestine surface-to-air recovery aircraft training center to its current use as a helicopter training center for the Arizona Air National Guard and commercial uses as aircraft maintenance repair and overhaul (MRO) facility. 

    Pima County has worked closely with Pinal County on the implementation of their Airpark master plan, an important aspect of which includes expansion of MRO operations as the need for such work grows.  Other commercial uses are possible for the Pinal County land and nearby State Land Trust property between the Airpark and I-10. Led by Pinal County, the three jurisdictions plan to release a joint Request for Information shortly to determine interest in development of the area around the Airpark.  

    It makes sense for us to partner with our neighbors on this and other economic development initiatives because such partnerships help the community by promoting good jobs and living wages and adding to the region’s commercial infrastructure. This provides a real public benefit, making the community economically stronger. 

    These partnerships also can help us provide better government services in the long term. That’s because when new industries move in, in addition to providing new high- paying jobs, they often purchase underused properties and invest huge sums of money to improve them. This in turn helps broaden the property tax base allowing local governments and school districts to provide higher quality services. 

    In the case of Pinal Airpark, Pima County can provide more than just moral support in this effort. The County owns a 296-acre site just south of the recently repaved 6,800-foot runway of Pinal Airpark. This undeveloped parcel, master planned for industrial development, would help forward the goals of Pinal Airpark Master Plan while providing good paying jobs for those who live in northern Pima County. 
    Student working on aircraft
    Our property, with its direct proximity to the runway, would provide opportunities for complimentary development and greatly increase business activity at Pinal Airpark, particularly MRO activity. The 296 acres enables development of large structures as well as providing adequate ramp space for the larger aircraft that are typically serviced at the Airpark. The location near the planned Union Pacific Red Rock switching yard, close proximity to Phoenix and Tucson, and growing manufacturing and distribution uses in Pinal County make this an ideal location for a logistics hub or aircraft manufacturing facility.

    This provides an opportunity to expand MRO and aeronautics, and other industries we have targeted in our Economic Development Plan. If Pima County can be a part of Pinal Airpark’s growth, this will also provide greater job opportunities to students in Pima Community College’s aviation technology program. This program works directly with the aviation industry to prepare students for the workplace. 

    In addition, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data project about 5 percent job growth in the fields of aircraft mechanics and service technicians over the next several years. These fields also provide quality pay, with many in the field earning more than $60,000 per year. 

    The growth of Pinal Airpark also will benefit southern Pinal County, which is something we support. As southern Pinal grows, those residents will look to Pima County areas for their shopping and service needs, providing a boost to existing businesses in our region. 

    New jobs and investment in the region are what we all strive for. Working across jurisdictional boundaries creates wins for everyone involved. Pima County will continue to help our partners for the benefit of the entire region.  
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