By Nick Worth
JoAnne Guderian is in a unique position to analyze the potential impact the closure of the Catalyst paper mill will have on the local economies of Snowflake and Taylor.
Guderian is not only the president of the Snowflake-Taylor Chamber of Commerce, but she is also a real estate agent with Meadowbrook Realty in Snowflake and is owner, with her husband Craig, of the Heritage Inn B&B in Snowflake.
“I remain hopeful,” Guuderian said in a recent interview. “I attended the Real AZ Corridor meeting in Snowflake and I came away with a more optimistic view of the future of the area. There are still talks going on.”
She said the local real estate market was struggling even before the announcement of the closure, but had shown signs of reviving.
“For the past three or four years the real estate market has been very depressed, but we felt it was picking up,” she said.
According to figures Guderian provided taken from the White Mountain Association of Realtors Multiple Listing Service (MLS), there are currently 102 single-family homes on the market in the Snowflake/Taylor area priced from $21,900 to $795,000. A total of 25 properties are currently in escrow and 67 properties with a me-dian price of $97,500 have sold since January of this year, with 24 of them closing after June 1. Guderian said the fact that over one-third of the properties sold in the period after June 1 shows the market was picking up.
She said, however, that since the closure announcement was made her agency has received two new home listings from people who were employed at the paper mill. She also mentioned another agency in town that has had two contracts fall out of escrow since the announcement.
“This is a blow,” Guderian said. “It’s going to put a lot more properties on the market. We thought we were turning the corner.”
Still, Guderian is very optimistic.
“There is an upside,” she said. “There will be some short-term damage, but in the long term, things will be better. Our area has so much to offer.”
She said the area has a skilled labor force that was employed at the mill that will be available if a buyer is found and if Catalyst can be convinced to sell the mill. She also mentioned the Pioneer wood processing plant in Winslow, which is expected to add several hundred jobs to Navajo County and, a little further off, the potash projects.
“I also feel the local public officials are working very hard to find some solutions,” she said.
Local Realtor Mary Miller with Century 21 in Snowflake agreed.
“Our Snowflake Town Manager Paul Watson has been very proactive in looking for new businesses to bring into the area,” Miller said. “If this had happened even two more years down the road, the transition would have been a lot easier.”
Miller is also very upbeat about the town’s future and the future of the real estate market.
“I was shocked like everyone else,” she said. “After the initial shock wore off, though, I realized we have a tremendous area here. We have a lot of private land, a very nice climate, abundant water, clean air. There is so much to recommend this area.”
She said Snowflake was listed in a recent publication as being among the top 10 safest and most stable areas to live. She also mentioned that talks are proceeding with potential buyers and there is still hope Catalyst can be convinced to sell the mill.
“If it (the paper mill) does shut down we’ll go through a rough patch, but people will eventually find other work,” said Miller. “There’s a lot more going on in our area than just the paper mill.
By Nick Worth