Despite lingering concerns due to multiple variants of the coronavirus, supply chain issues, and fears that inflation might dampen the recovery, our region had a fair bit of good economic news this past year.
Consider the fact that in 2021, the number of leads that we fielded for businesses interested in locating in northern Arizona increased by 15% over the last calendar year. At the same time, ECoNA’s Business Retention team reports that few businesses closed in the past 12 months and many are looking to expand.
That’s the macro view on our local economy. Zoom in a bit, however, and you’ll see a lot of exciting developments that made 2021 an excellent year for northern Arizona and indicate that 2022 might be even better.
Among the highlights for 2021:
- Early in the year, we were able to announce that UACJ Automotive Whitehall Industries, manufacturer of electric vehicle parts, was coming to Flagstaff. The company has now opened a plant in a portion of the former Walgreens distribution center that will add up to 350 jobs in Flagstaff within the next few years.
- In spring, New Life Forest Products in Bellemont celebrated its expansion, adding 425,000 square feet of space and 200 more employees.
- Meanwhile, giving residents the opportunity to train for high paying jobs in the field of transportation and logistics, the long-awaited Commercial Driving License Training program for those interested in driving semis for a living launched in June at Coconino Community College.
- Our recent trip to the Innovating Commerce Serving Communities (ICSC) convention in Las Vegas was also rewarding. While attendance at the retail tradeshow was lighter than in previous years, we still were able to meet with 30 contacts, which confirmed that northern Arizona continues to be a hot market for this sector.
- The end of the year also brought the acquisition of the Bashas grocery store chain by California-based The Raley’s Companies. This acquisition provides additional resources to allow for reinvestment in existing stores and wage hikes for eligible hourly team members.
The good news for our region is rolling into the new year, too, as we look forward to seeing our friends in Winslow featured on a new HGTV program, Home Town Kickstart. This is the latest series from DIY stars Ben and Erin Napier, who rose to fame by renovating buildings in their hometown of Laurel, Mississippi.
The couple will be visiting Winslow and five other small towns throughout the U.S. in the series and plan to do three renovations for each location: refresh the home of a local hero, give a small business an upgrade and invigorate a public space in the town. We anticipate this national coverage will showcase all the opportunities that await in Winslow.
Thanks to all of our collaborators who made 2021 a good year for economic development in northern Arizona. We wish you the best during this holiday season and look forward to keeping this momentum going in 2022.