On behalf of Coconino County, we have had the privilege of working closely with hundreds of residents and stakeholders in the Lake Powell region for the past year, as the area prepares for the scheduled closing of the Navajo Generating Station (NGS) in 2019.
After two economic outlook conferences and dozens of focus group discussions, we recently completed our report, An Economic Strategic Plan for the Lake Powell Region for the County.
While there is much to digest in the 23-page report, one of the major takeaways is that the area’s next chapter should include leveraging its rich cultural, scenic and recreational resources – not only to boost tourism, but to position the Lake Powell region as the next “lifestyle” destination for entrepreneurs and businesses.
Picking a business location based upon its natural amenities has become a major trend in recent years, with a new generation of entrepreneurs and service providers flocking to places like Flagstaff; Bozeman, MT; Durango, CO; and Taos, NM. There’s also historic precedent in northern Arizona – 50 years ago Bill Gore, a hiking enthusiast, visited Flagstaff and decided to establish a division of W.L. Gore & Associates there. With more than 2,000 employees, it is the largest private employer in the city.
Certainly the Lake Powell region has much to lure those looking for an inspiring place to call home. In addition to Lake Powell and the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, the region is also close to the north and south rims of the Grand Canyon, the Bryce and Zion National Parks, Monument Valley and Canyon de Chelly. The diverse culture of the area, including its many Navajo and Hopi communities, is another tremendous asset.
There are, of course, challenges – infrastructure concerns, better communication between the cultures in the area, and improved education among them – but the region is already forming partnerships and making strides to meet those challenges.
Improved internet connectivity is being pursued with the extension of fiber cable lines to the community from nearby Utah. A new air carrier at Page Airport is expected to increase passenger rates by 2,000-3,000 in its first year of service. Partnerships are developing between Coconino Community College, Northern Arizona University, Dine College and Navajo Technical College to coordinate educational opportunities in the area.
There is also a $300,000 federal grant that has been awarded to help the region rebound from the loss of NSG. It is anticipated that funding will be used for skill and on-the-job training and business creation.
This report is only the starting point in an important conversation that needs to occur among the leaders and citizens of Page and numerous surrounding communities. ECoNA looks forward to continuing to help the County as the Lake Powell region shapes its future.