Interest from big manufacturers fuel economic growth in San Tan Valley, Pinal County

Pinal County Community Development Director Himanshu Patel, right, and Public Works Director Louis Anderson discussed economic development in San Tan Valley as well as other communities in the county during the March 17 lunch and learn program presented by the San Tan Valley Chamber of Commerce. (Independent Newspapers/Wendy Miller)

Pinal County Community Development Director Himanshu Patel, right, and Public Works Director Louis Anderson discussed economic development in San Tan Valley as well as other communities in the county during the March 17 lunch and learn program presented by the San Tan Valley Chamber of Commerce. (Independent Newspapers/Wendy Miller)

Economic development in Pinal County is on the rise, according to Pinal County Economic Development Manager Tim Kanavel.

“We’ve increased quite a bit,” Mr. Kanavel said during a phone interview, “especially with large projects. Remember when Tesla was looking everywhere, including Coolidge? Suddenly Pinal County is on the map.”

In 2014, the Eloy-Coolidge area south of San Tan Valley and Casa Grande was considered by Tesla Motors, the American electric car company, as a location to build a $4 billion battery factory. Although the company did not build there, interest by the car manufacturer is a contributing factor to the economic growth being enjoyed these days in Pinal County, Mr. Kanavel said.

“We have two main freeways, railways, thousands and thousands of developable land, power — about eight electric companies and three huge solar fields,” Mr. Kanavel said. “We have all sorts of things going on, including our location in the heart of the Sun Corridor, a federally recognized area. People are taking a look at Pinal County. We don’t have the limitations of Maricopa and Pima counties because of their sheer size. All of a sudden we’re a player because we’re in-between.”

Projects the county worked on in February and March include the $10 million Applegate Insulation manufacturing plant in an unincorporated part of Casa Grande; a $7 million research and development facility for Case New Holland, a subsidiary of Fiat Manufacturing, a heavy farm equipment manufacturer; and a $350,000 zip line in Oracle, in unincorporated Pinal County, according to a project list Mr. Kanavel e-mailed to the Queen Creek/San Tan Valley Independent.

Pinal County has about $18 billion worth of projects representing 22,000 new jobs in the works, Mr. Kanavel said, but he was quick to point out not everything is a done deal.

“These things are a moving target,” he said, explaining projects can grow, such as the Phoenix Mart planned in Casa Grande that started off at $200 million and is now up to about $1 billion, and Home Depot in San Tan Valley, a $65 million project that is on hold.

“Retail has taken a hit in the economy and I don’t think they want to take business away from the Home Depot on Power Road,” Mr. Kanavel said.

Home Depot has a store at 7401 S. Power Road in Queen Creek, according to its website.

A number of other businesses have found their way to San Tan Valley, including many health care and manufacturing companies, according to the project list.

An Urgent Care Extra opened Sept. 1 on the northeast corner of Gary and Empire roads, while an Urgent Care facility is next to the AutoZone store at 525 E. Hunt Highway. Standalone ER facilities are going in at the northwest corner of Ocotillo and Ironwood roads and Gary Road and Hunt Highway.

An ammunition manufacturer is researching sites in San Tan Valley, Coolidge and Casa Grande for a 5,000- to 10,000-square-foot facility to produce handgun and rifle ammunition. Also, a national hotel chain is looking at a site on Ironwood Drive just north of San Tan Valley, Mr. Kanavel said, adding he was not at liberty to divulge its name.

He said the multi-million-dollar project is negotiating with the county on entitlements, such as utilities and an incentive package. The hotel would have 60-75 rooms and employ 15-20 people, he said.

In addition, a CubeSmart Self-Storage facility is preparing to open at 38300 N. Gantzel Road. E-mails to the company asking for employment and grand opening information had not been returned as of press time Friday, March 18.

Movie-screen manufacturer Severtson Screens plans to move its corporate headquarters from Mesa to San Tan Valley, company CEO Toby Severtson said during a phone interview. The 30-year-old company is a large manufacturer of movie screens that is based in the U.S., Mr. Severtson said.

Mr. Severtson is working with the county to rezone a 5.3-acre parcel at 41502 N. Schnepf Road that was once occupied by H20 Water from water utilization and government agricultural to light manufacturing.

Once that happens, he said, he will move his operation and its 20 employees from their present 45,000-square-foot building at 216 S. Alma School Road Suite 3 in Mesa to the new location, which will have about 60,000 square feet and 30-35 employees.

Mr. Severtson said he hopes to reutilize the buildings once occupied by H20 because they do not have pillars inside, something that is necessary for his manufacturing process because the movie screens are so large.

Relocating to San Tan Valley has several advantages, he said. First is its close proximity to the Mesa site. Second, Pinal County welcomes new business and offers numerous incentives and tax breaks, he said.

“Maricopa County has been good to us but we’re just a drop in a very large bucket there,” Mr. Severtson said. “I liked Pinal County’s vision of economic development and growth.”

To help that vision thrive, the county is planning to conduct a San Tan Valley economic development and land use study that would determine the best economic course for the community, according to Pinal County Community Development Director Himanshu Patel.

Mr. Patel was one of several speakers from the county who talked about local economic development at the March 17 lunch and learn program hosted by the San Tan Valley Chamber of Commerce.

For more information about future Lunch and Learns, visit the chamber’s website.

San Tan Valley is part of the county’s comprehensive growth plan but officials want to create an 18- to 24-month long study that focuses only on San Tan Valley, Mr. Patel said.

He hopes to develop the preliminary scope of the project by summer and then will solicit input by the public in a number of community meetings, he said.

Once completed, the plan will help decision-makers determine land-use, zoning and other development matters, he said.

For more information about projects in San Tan Valley and Pinal County, visit the county’s website.

News Editor Wendy Miller can be contacted at 480-982-7799., or follow her on Twitter @WendyNewszap123.

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