By Nick Worth
A proposed change in bylaws for the Real Arizona Corridor (Real AZ) group was on the agenda last Thursday in Snowflake.
Executive Director Hunter Moore told those attending the gathering the bylaws were being changed in order to move the group forward in its mission of attracting economic development to the area.
“Four years ago absolutely nothing was being done for economic development,” Moore told The Tribune-News. “Then people got together and organized.”
Moore said Real AZ continued to work on reaching its goals over the past four years, to the extent that when the Arizona Commerce Authority came to a meeting with advice for the group, Real AZ had already thought of and implemented the recommendations on its own.
He said the proposed changes to the bylaws will help the group to be a lot more effective.
“We’re really changing the focus and becoming something new,” Moore said. “I think it’s an extension and the next step toward what this group has envisioned all along.”
The biggest change is in the levels of membership.
Under the existing bylaws, there are four levels of private investors, including $2,000 for the Platinum Level; $1,000, Gold Level; $500, Silver Level; and $250, Bronze Level.
Each of the levels has certain privileges attached to it consisting of varying levels of ads on the website, number of seats on the board of directors and other incentives.
Under the proposed changes, the term “private investors” is gone. All members are now referred to simply as “members” and there are four levels of investment: $5,000, government; $2,500, large business (50 employees or more); $1,000, small business (less than 50 employees); and $500, non-profits (minimum investment).
In exchange for their investment, members will receive the following benefits: recognition of membership on the group’s webpage with pass through to a designated webpage of the member’s choosing; an invitation to monthly board meetings; copies of monthly board packets; and an invitation to the annual meeting.
Moore explained that “members” are governments or businesses, and each one will be allowed to have one voting “director” on the board.
Asked if there would be a cap on the size of the board, Moore replied, “We felt that the cost may do that for us.” He also said the dues could be made in payments.
The other major change, according to Moore, is the trimming of the executive committee from eight members to five, including one representative from each county.
“Navajo County stepped forward and gave my time and all the employer related expenses,” Moore said. “Now the group has somebody to mind the store every day and put what the group has planned into action.”
He said Real AZ is moving forward.
“We have a website. We have a brand. Now it’s a matter of ‘let’s implement it,’” he said.
“Even with what we’re proposing we’re a very little fish in the pond,” Moore added. “We have to use every cent and we have to be focused. We can’t be sloppy and have to be very organized.”
Moore also made a presentation on the White Mountain Stewardship Contract, which is due to expire in August.
Moore gave the group some background on the Rodeo-Chedeski fire, which had a devastating economic impact on the state. Insured losses of homes and property totaled $120 million along with a total assessed valuation decrease of $72 million.
There were 272 jobs lost in Navajo County and 80 in Apache County. About $75 million in timber was also lost in the blazes.
The White Mountain Stewardship Contract was part of a restoration effort that began approximately 10 years ago. The purpose of the contract was to bring about forest restoration and reintroduce industry into the forest.
Those successful treatment efforts were the main reason firefighters were able to save the towns of Greer and Alpine and others during the Wallow fire.
“We need to look to the future of what’s going to happen when the White Mountain Stewardship Contract is over,” said Moore. He said more than $130 million has been invested by industry in the restoration efforts and about 20,000 acres per year need to be treated in order to sustain the industry now in place.
Navajo County District IV Supervisor David Tenney, who was in attendance at the meeting, said approximately 46,000 acres are set to be treated in the Forest Lakes area.
Moore noted that all the Four Forest Restoration Initiative (4FRI) acres to be treated are currently located on the far west side of the forest and that it is not cost effective to bring it over to this side of the forest to be processed by industries over here.
Real AZ, said Moore, is planning to ask members of the Arizona Congressional delegation, the Secretary of the Interior and the Chief of the Forest Service to “politically and financially support forest management efforts in Arizona,” reads a resolution of support.
Specifically, the resolution asks the lawmakers and policy makers to provide increased financial support to the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests to keep existing industry supplied with treatable acres.
Moore said he and Tenney will go to Washington, D.C., at the end of this month to discuss the issue with the members of the Arizona delegation.
Moore also outlined a proposed economic development study the group is thinking of putting together.
“We have some data on the communities, but we don’t think we have enough,” Moore said. He said a similar study in Show Low was done by Tracey Mancuso, the Small Business Development Center director at Northland Pioneer College (NPC).
He said the study would include information about several key factors in the area, such as education, building starts and other matters of interest to potential manufacturers or businesses that may want to locate here.
Moore asked members to consider what it would take to do a “chapter one and chapter two economic development study.”
“There are two approaches I’m looking at in trying to sell the region,” Moore told The Tribune-News. “The first is a high-level brochure pitching the positives, lifestyle, education, transportation, water.
“You send it out to people, take it to trade shows, take it with you to meetings,” said Moore. “You’re giving them the high points. It’s like a travel brochure.”
“We’re looking for this to be a marketing brochure,” said Mancuso, who was attending the meeting telephonically. “We need something to get out quickly when people want information.”
She said she and Moore brought the idea to the group as a potential partnership with NPC.
Moore told the meeting what he is calling “chapter two” would be a more comprehensive “warts and all” study, which would contain more in depth reports on the area with such figures as crime statistics, sales tax rates for the various cities and towns, and property tax rates. It would also contain primary and secondary education statistics, including school enrollment numbers and post-secondary education levels.
“It would be available to show a potential employer what kind of education levels are available in this area,” Moore said. “Until you start studying the trends, you don’t know if you’re going up or going down.”
He said sales tax trends were a good example and can show the trend of the local economy.
“Unemployment rates would also be something we would look at,” Moore said.
Acknowledging comments from others at the meeting, Moore said, “Another thing about this is you have to keep the data current. If the (group) chooses to take this on, it will be an ongoing project.”
By Nick Worth