(Source: PinalCentral) By Heather Smathers Staff Writer.
CASA GRANDE — Announcements of major development projects in recent months begs the question — how do these developers and projects come to Casa Grande?
Richard Wilkie is the economic development director for the city. It’s his job to entice businesses to build or relocate to Casa Grande, but he notes that it’s a team effort to do so.
“I just facilitate it,” he told PinalCentral.
“There are multiple reasons that businesses might want to relocate to Casa Grande, but the number one reason is location, location, location, as the old saying goes,” he said.
He touts Casa Grande’s location on two major interstates as well as its proximity to Phoenix and Tucson, potentially large hiring pools, as major drivers for businesses.
After a business has shown interest, the real work begins. Wilkie will prepare proposals and provide data to the company to see if Casa Grande makes a short list of sites. If it does, a local face-to-face meeting is where Wilkie said the city will shine.
“The community can sell itself,” he said.
Wilkie said the current and former city councils made relocating businesses to Casa Grande attractive, including updating the infrastructure associated with growth potential.
The city does offer some incentives for major businesses. However, Wilkie said, not every single business that wants to come to Casa Grande will receive an incentive from the city to do so.
“The project must have a large enough impact,” he said.
Incentives the city offers will come in the form of reduced or waived fees and a partial rebate on sales taxes. The city won’t ever offer a cash incentive to a business, he said.
“We’re very careful about any taxpayer dollars,” he said. “We won’t just write a check.”
Major projects continue to move forward, Wilkie said, even if it seems like time is moving slowly.
“These things take time and patience,” he said. “It’s a marathon, not a sprint.”
The city is finalizing negotiations with Lucid Motors, an electric car manufacturing company, and is still actively negotiating with Dreamport Villages, a large-scale amusement park development.
“People really started to notice us when we got PhoenixMart,” Wilkie said.
In addition to businesses reaching out to the city, Wilkie said he also attends conferences and trade shows to tout Casa Grande’s amenities, and it’s at those conferences he realized the impact the PhoenixMart announcement had on economic development.
“People were interested in Casa Grande because of that project,” he said.
In addition to attracting large employers, Wilkie said the city also recognizes the need for other growth, including hotels and homes. With an influx of visitors and prospective residents, it’s important to mange the growth accordingly, which is where he said working with other departments in the city comes into play.
If all of the projects with an announced intent to come to Casa Grande, including the Attesa motor sports complex that is to be just outside the city limits, actually become a reality, Wilkie said there will be about 25,000 jobs created in the next 10 years in Pinal County.
“We want to see everyone succeed as a region,” he said.