As Ioanna Morfessis, President & CEO of IO, Inc., recently put it: “Economies don’t remain static; there is no stasis. They either grow and progress or they regress.”
Morfessis and Danny Court of Elliott Pollack & Co. co-authored the recently released Strategic Plan created on behalf of ECoNA to outline a roadmap for the region’s economic future.
Their reporting indicates that Northern Arizona faces a major decision: whether the region’s economy will continue to remain competitive or if anti-growth sentiment will lead to stagnation and possible economic erosion.
The roadmap includes information that shows population growth in northern Arizona becoming flat over the next 20 years – in stark contrast to statewide projections that show population rising in other areas of Arizona at a very healthy clip. The roadmap states that our region’s projected population figures portend the most substantive competitive disadvantage for the ECoNA region.
But those statistics aren’t written in stone, Court said.
“If areas like the J.W. Powell corridor [in Flagstaff] were allowed to develop, that could catalyze hundreds of acres of new housing development,” he said, which could help alleviate the dearth of available workforce housing, one of the main challenges for the region.
Some of northern Arizona’s smaller communities – including Winslow and Camp Verde – also have rich opportunities for economic growth.
There are perils to not embracing economic growth: not attracting new business, not having a place for young people to live and work after they graduate from school, and workforce shortages for businesses that are already here.
As part of creating the roadmap, Morfessis and Court held roundtables with members of the business community who indicated that finding their future workforce was a major concern for their companies.
“Northern Arizona University is producing thousands of graduates who then have to leave the area because they can’t find affordable housing, and that’s a brain-drain of talent for the region,” said Morfessis.
Even regional economic stalwarts like tourism could feel the pinch if those companies cannot find the labor needed to provide services for visitors, she added.
“There’s a lot of work to be done, but the great thing is that there is so much to work with in this area,” said Morfessis. “The ECoNA region has phenomenal assets. It comes down to how receptive the communities are to the people and businesses that could enhance their quality of life.”
Morfessis and Court will be presenting the Strategic Plan to the Flagstaff City Council on Tuesday, November 28 at its 3 pm meeting.