Cuba Gooding Jr. couldn’t have said it better. Maricopa’s mayor, council and economic development team had a simple goal in mind when planning out the Dec. 10 economic development forum: “Help me help you.” It was this pitch they made to local landowners while highlighting the work done by the city toward attracting business thus far and what more there was to be done.
Spurred on by the city’s membership in the Greater Phoenix Economic Council, the city’s economic development team, under the direction of senior economic development consultant Ioanna Morfessis, is pushing two new GPEC strategies: increasing shovel-ready sites and expediting the permitting process for businesses. Fast-tracking the permitting process, which locks the city into a 90-day maximum turnaround time on permits, was unanimously approved by the City Council Dec. 4.
The preparation of shovel-ready sites was encouraged throughout the entire forum.
“You have a tremendous amount of land mass out here. The opportunities are immense,” keynote speaker Pete Bolton, the senior managing director of CB Richard Ellis in Phoenix, told the landowners of their ability to attract industry and commercial ventures. “Other places are trying to cut you off. There are lots of competition.”
The city handed out forms to the gathered landowners that outlines all the requirements GPEC implemented in November to have a site labeled “shovel-ready.” Morfessis, who has pushed the shovel-ready idea since she came onboard with the city more than two years ago, said other municipalities in GPEC are pushing hard to increase their inventory of shovel-ready sites to increase their city’s marketability to businesses. The city of Surprise leads the way with 10 sites. Maricopa has none.
“Other cities and towns are way more ready for development than we are,” she said.
Bolton noted with current conditions in the market – there is a glut of office space but industrial complexes and retail continue to be hot building commodities – Maricopa should focus its attention on attracting the industrial sector. The continued growth of rooftops in Maricopa would draw in the retail sector, he said.
“I highly encourage anyone who wants to get out front to work with the city on joint ventures... so that prospective businesses that come out here don’t think (opening) is going to be 18 months away,” Bolton said.
The idea behind the GPEC strategies being pushed by the city is not so much for Maricopa to purchase land, but perhaps help local landowners get their land ready to be sold in a more usable fashion. The GPEC checklist includes items such as making sure all utilities are available at the site and Councilman Will Dunn said sprucing up the property to make it more attractive for a sale can be as simple as clearing off the brush growing on the site.
“It really kills us when we have a high-wage job-provider that we can’t land because they see tumbleweeds rather than clear land,” Morfessis said.
The city will be utilizing the information it gleans from landowners to place into the Maricopa Prospector program being developed this year. That program, which Morfessis said should be ready for operation on the city’s Web site by March, would allow prospective businesses a way of one-stop shopping for land that would meet their requirements.
“Everything’s open to us right now,” Dunn said. “If we don’t take that next step, then all we are doing is growing tumbleweeds.”
“In site selection today, one of the biggest deal killers is the lack of ready-to-go-sites,” Carter and Burgess senior project manager Deane Foote said in a GPEC release. “The Shovel-Ready program is fantastic because it takes the guess work and time delays out of the equation, resulting in more jobs for Greater Phoenix.”