By Nick Worth
Navajo County Governmental Affairs Director Hunter Moore was selected to serve as executive director of the Real AZ Corridor at the group’s Dec. 12 meeting.
“If we really want to be competitive we need a full-time director,” said Snowflake Town Manager Paul Watson. He reported to the group members that a selection committee had worked on finding what it would take to hire someone for the position.
“We would need a minimum of $150,000,” Watson said. “Governmental agencies, the cities, towns and counties, would need to come up with $15,000 to $30,000.”
Watson said another solution presented itself.
“I was approached with the idea, ‘What if we have somebody who devotes a significant amount of his time to the position?’” Watson said. “Hunter’s time is being given to us by Navajo County. Now it’s more a matter of some money to supplement his income and some money for marketing.”
Watson explained that the cities and towns of Apache and Navajo counties would be asked to pay $5,000 each. Large private companies would be asked for $2,500 each and smaller private businesses which are members of the corridor would be asked to contribute $500 each.
“I know, for Snowflake, we put very little of our funding toward creating jobs,” Watson said.
In answer to a question from Snowflake Councilman Tom Poscharsky, Watson answered that he had not yet approached Apache County about the idea.
Moore then told the meeting that he would like to ask Real AZ for $6,000 to supplement his salary for the rest of the fiscal year.
“Next year it would go up to $10,000 to $15,000,” he said. The money would be to compensate him for his time in running the organization and related employee costs.
Moore also asked that all the finances be handled at the county. He said County Manager Jimmy Jayne, and Supervisors David Tenney and Sylvia Allen were very supportive of the idea.
“Jimmy, David and Sylvia and others saw the need to step up and do this,” Moore said.
He then spoke to the group about the need for luring companies to Navajo and Apache counties.
“We feel there is a need here in the county for me to do this,” said Moore. He said his work for the county as governmental affairs director would not take up as much of his time as previously, as Tenney has developed good ties in the state legislature.
“Navajo County is offering my time and employee expenses with $6,000 from Real AZ,” Moore said. He added that the arrangement would be evaluated after one year.
“We have the funds to take care of this for the rest of this fiscal year,” Watson told the group.
Moore added that as executive director he would not only run the organization, but would also work to promote the towns, cities and counties. Both he and Watson stressed that the emphasis on promoting the county would not be toward attracting retail businesses, as that is something best done by the individual towns and cities.
Instead, the emphasis would be on attracting manufacturers who can provide much needed jobs to the area.
“A lot of people look at these meetings as an information exchange,” Moore said of the Real AZ meetings. “This is not where the business will get done.”
He added there is a need to go to trade shows and similar gatherings to promote the area to companies seeking a home. Moore also stated Real AZ needs an operating budget of $50,000 to $60,000 in order to carry out the needed promotions.
The group then voted unanimously to hire Moore as executive director.
“Economic development and job creation is an integral part of what we do as an organization,” Jayne told The Tribune-News. “Hunter is not going to spend time at the capitol any longer. Instead he’ll be focused on economic development and job creation in the region, working with the cities and towns.”
Jayne added that Moore will continue in his role of governmental affairs director as far as dealing with the local communities.
Asked if Moore’s salary would remain the same, Jayne said, “His salary is going up commensurate with what Real AZ is putting into it. The county general fund will not pay him any more money.”
Jayne also said Moore will not be losing any salary from the county.
“They (Real AZ) were looking at hiring a full time executive director and that didn’t make a lot of sense,” said Jayne. “Hunter already has relationships with the 4FRI (Four Forest Restoration Initiative) groups, and potash and owners at the former Catalyst paper mill.”
Jayne said having Moore work for Real AZ is “a real partnership” with the group.
“The bottom line is this is a priority for us and we need to focus on growing the economy of the region,” Jayne said. “And we need to dedicate ourselves to it and not just throw money at it.”
Jayne said Moore is the right person to do the executive director’s job for the group. He also noted that the decision was not made lightly.
“It was discussed for several months,” he said. “The county put it forward because we think it’s in the public interest and the interest of the region. We want to grow the local economy.”
Jayne said the Town of Taylor has historically been the administrator for the Real AZ Corridor group.
“Now the county will take on the responsibility of collecting member dues and other administrative matters,” Jayne said.
By Nick Worth