The Town of Marana has completed its strategic plan for economic development, a 30-page roadmap that identifies what industries Marana wants, where they would be encouraged and how they would be pursued.
The strategy, developed over a period of eight months by a committee of 22 community, government and business leaders, was due for final adoption by the Marana Town Council at its Tuesday, March 2 meeting.
"Everybody's always known Marana is going to be something great," said Josh Wright, who led the effort from his position within the town manager's office. Marana is "blessed" with natural beauty and an adjacent national park, existing infrastructure, land, water and more.
"Dreaming is one thing," Wright said. "There's got to be some action steps with that. We put our heads together and asked 'what does that potential look like, in some tangible form?'"
Wright said the roadmap's developers "tried to answer three big questions. What? Where? How?"
What industries should Marana attempt to attract? There are three identified primary sectors – transportation and logistics, tourism and the visitor experience, and "regional industry cluster support."
Transportation and logistics would center upon Interstate 10, the Marana Regional Airport and nearby Pinal Air Park, and railroad service. Those are "jobs that deal with the movement of goods and services," Wright said.
Tourism brings in outside dollars. To get those dollars, the community must have "great activities to do while they're here," Wright said. That ties into developed recreation, and planning for Marana's future downtown.
Regional industry cluster support is "really interesting, and will set us apart," Wright believes. Marana intends to "complement the existing industry mix in Southern Arizona with great support and supply chain.
"Everyone wants to land the next IBM, the next Intel," Wright said. "Those are rare. What if we spent the time to get to know those industries" now working in Southern Arizona, asking them "if you can grow, what do you need? Supplies? Services? Outsourcing? We would help those companies already here to grow and expand further."
Prospects wouldn't be limited to existing Marana businesses, though "a number of excellent companies have invested in Marana," Wright said. "How do we keep them?" The cluster support concept is "a really innovative idea I credit the committee with developing and brainstorming."
Marana would look at two other industries over the long term – environmental technologies, to include solar, wind and alternative green industries; and biomedical and bioscience industries.
"Obviously, Oro Valley has done very well in that regard," Wright said. Marana would look for "spillover," or supply chain businesses, "maybe along the Tangerine Road corridor."
Where would Marana try to grow industry?
"What areas of town match the best" with desired development, Wright asked. The plan identifies nine economic activity centers, in effect geographic zones. "All have their own uniqueness," Wright said.
They are Marana's downtown, the Heritage Park center, Dove Mountain, Tangerine Road and I-10, the Tangerine Road technology corridor, Marana Regional Airport, south Marana, the Twin Peaks interchange and a "transportation logistics zone," to include I-10 and Pinal Air Park.
Target industries and activity centers would be integrated. Marana's developing downtown might be "an excellent area for tourism and the visitor experience," Wright said. Several locations on Tangerine toward Oro Valley could become a technology corridor, or a place for the hospitality and tourism industries to develop. Transportation logistics could be clustered in proximity to I-10, airports and the railroad.
What does Marana have to do to make all this happen? The plan identifies five focus areas – business attraction, retention and expansion; resource and business support; workforce development; tourism and the visitor experience; and community and infrastructure development.
"Each one has a series of initiatives," Wright said. Marana wants to "build great relationships with the existing business community." It wants development processes that are friendly, with plans "reviewed quickly and for a fair price." It wants strong connections with education. And, as money allows, the town wants to build "a small capital improvement plan" in each of its economic activity centers, "so they really are ripe for the kind of development we want."
Marana has "dabbled in economic development over the years," Wright said, but lack of a plan was "inhibiting us." The roadmap "is going to help us move together in one direction."
He plans for it to be a working, living strategy, "not a static document." The goal is to "not put it on a shelf, but to begin immediately. Whatever fiscal resources we can find for 2010-2011, we would immediately begin to put the pieces in place.
"We programmed it and tuned it where it fits right in with our budget process," Wright said. "We can immediately begin directing resources."
The town council and the commission are "keepers of the plan. They will be reported to and advised of our progress." Regular scrutiny can keep the plan "alive and dynamic, even in this challenging fiscal environment, and ahead to when the fiscal environment isn't as challenging."
Wright and the committee learned plenty along the way, from two open houses, from one another, and from travel to study what other communities do.
In Glendale, the group learned "a lot of great economic development is saying 'no to the wrong opportunities," Wright said. Glendale had three miles of freeway frontage – Marana has 18 miles – and it said "no" to several possibilities before major sports facilities came to town looking for space. "It's a lot of saying 'no' to the wrong things and 'yes' to the right things."
"It helps when you have a plan," Wright said. "Companies want to see you have a plan."
Marana's target industries:
Transportation and logistics
Tourism and the visitor experience
Regional industry cluster support
Identified corridors for development:
The Heritage Park center
Tangerine Road and I-10
The Tangerine Road technology corridor
Marana Regional Airport
The Twin Peaks interchange
A transportation logistics zone, to include I-10 and Pinal Air Park.
Business attraction, retention and expansion
Resource and business support
Tourism and the visitor experience
Community and infrastructure development.