County government devising economic development strategy

Mohave County officials are devising an economic development strategy months after county supervisors severed ties with a private contractor hired to lure business to the area.

Economic development is one of eight goals in a strategic plan Mohave County supervisors approved 2-1 on Jan.

22.

The goal calls for creating, carrying out and managing a "strategically sustainable, comprehensive" county growth and economic development strategy and plan.

"Mohave County has no clearly articulated economic development strategy, plans, goals or objectives," states the executive summary of the strategic plan.

The plan calls for creating a regional economic development coalition and working with economic development agencies from the county's cities and representatives from unincorporated areas.

County officials discussed an economic development strategy during a workshop Feb.

19 in Bullhead City.

Community Development Director Susie Parel-Duranceau presented various options to the supervisors at the meeting.

Options include contracting with a private entity for economic development, hiring someone in-house or forming a consortium with cities, with the county in the leading role, Parel-Duranceau said.

She said Mohave County currently is part of an economic development district with La Paz and Yuma counties.

The county had contracted for several years with the Mohave County Economic Development Authority, but the supervisors voted in June not to renew a contract with the private, nonprofit entity.

MCEDA's mission was to attract industry that created jobs that paid $10 or more an hour.

Following the decision on MCEDA, County Manager Ron Walker said the county needed to have an economic development strategy in place before hiring in-house or contracting with another entity for economic development.

Walker could not be reached for comment.

Walker, Parel-Duranceau and five other department heads devised the strategic plan, which set goals on improving the county's finances and the county's overall operations.

Walker has said he wants Mohave County to be the "best-managed" of the 15 counties in the state.

He drew support from District 1 Supervisor Pete Byers of Kingman and District 2 Supervisor Tom Sockwell of Bullhead City.

However, District 3 Supervisor Buster Johnson of Lake Havasu City voted against the plan, characterizing it as a blueprint to raise sales and property taxes.

Johnson said he opposes the economic development plan.

"I don't support it," Johnson said.

"I don't think it will work.

Right now we have economic development in all the cities.

They know what is best in their cities.

The county needs to be a separate entity that is more geared toward industry, which the cities can't bring in their areas."

Johnson said he opposes hiring someone in-house and would prefer contracting with a private entity with the intent of safeguarding the confidentiality of discussions between local officials and business prospects.

Johnson cast the sole "no" vote against cutting funding to MCEDA, which received $189,200 during the fiscal year that ended June 30, 2001.

He said that with MCEDA no longer receiving county funding he is trying to fill the void by meeting with business prospects, some of whom had been referred by the Arizona Department of Commerce.

Byers and Sockwell could not be reached for comments about how the county should proceed with economic development.

Economic development has two aspects, Parel-Duranceau said.

The first is attracting industry and the second is developing strategies to promote economic development.

"All we are presenting is options," she said.

"The board will have to decide what they really want to do for economic development for Mohave County."