by Blake Herzog
An 18-month study being launched by Pinal County and the University of Arizona will plot out the county’s future industrial development by identifying where different types of businesses should go for their benefit as well as the region’s.
The study’s aim is to create an Arizona Innovation Technology Corridor that, for now, begins on Interstate 10 at the southern Maricopa County line, includes all of Pinal County’s frontage on Interstates 8 and 10, and continues on I-10 through Tucson before ending at the UA Science and Technology Park.
County Economic Development Director Tim Kanavel said he will be working with Dr. Greg Watson, an entrepreneur and investor who is a lecturer at the UA’s Maguire Center for Entrepreneurship, to analyze infrastructure and other factors companies look at when considering locating in an area.
“Certain companies need to go certain places,” Kanavel said. “Some need water, some don’t hardly need any water. We want to maximize use because we don’t want a company that hardly needs any water in an area that has a lot of water that we might need for something else.”
He said Watson will “help us assemble all the parts and pieces, help with the planning, even do some help with the recruiting with some of the companies, because this is an extension of the Science and Tech Park, too, so this is going to be a great opportunity for both sides of the county line.”
Kanavel said he expects Maricopa County to eventually join the project, “but they just haven’t decided what they’re going to do yet.”
The Pinal County Board of Supervisors approved a $225,000 intergovernmental agreement with the university June 17 to pay for the study.
Kanavel stressed this study will benefit every community in the county, not just those along the interstates.
“Every city in the whole entire county is going to be a part of this,” he said. “Whether we put a company over in Mammoth or not, the workforce and opportunities for auxiliary operations will be there. Not all of them are going to go along the freeway because they don’t need to be on the freeway.”
This study will require feedback from stakeholders throughout the county, and Kanavel and Watson are pulling together numerous committees to focus on the multiple aspects of the county’s growth trajectory.
Kanavel said Arizona State University also will conduct a study of the major rail lines running though Pinal County and how they can be integrated into its economic growth.
With Lucid Motors, Nikola Motors, thousands of acres of solar energy panels and other ventures involving renewable energy, many of the pieces already are in place, Kanavel said.
He said he expects the corridor to bring “high-tech manufacturing, medical, all sorts of different kinds of projects. Plus we’ve already got companies getting placed,” with one announcement expected soon.
Though the study itself is expected to run just a year and a half, Kanavel said it will require a lot of public input and decades of development for its findings to be fully brought to life.
“We have to communicate total transparency because this is a massive, massive multibillion-dollar project. It’ll take 30 years to put into play,” he said.