FLORENCE — Tim Kanavel, who was instrumental in luring new industry and jobs to Pinal County as economic development director for the past 12 years, died Tuesday night. He had been hospitalized with COVID-19, family members said.
Board of Supervisors Chairman Steve Miller, R-Casa Grande, announced Kanavel’s passing at the beginning of Wednesday’s board meeting. He commented later through the county’s spokesman, "I met Tim when he first came to Pinal County in 2009. Tim came from the working world, having begun his career in the oilfields, and as a result, knew how important jobs are and what they mean to everyday lives.
“There was nobody more dedicated to his job and to Pinal County than Tim,” Miller continued. “He was a person that was always trying to advance Pinal County and what was best for our constituents. This is devastating news and a tough loss for Pinal County."
Vice Chairman Mike Goodman, R-San Tan Valley, added, "He's going to be greatly missed, there's no way you can replace a Tim Kanavel. What he's done for this county and our communities is truly beyond measurement, we're going to see the impact of Tim's work for decades. What's going to be challenging is to continue that legacy. Our thoughts are with Tim's family, friends and loved ones. I always felt Tim was a good friend of mine."
"I had the privilege of working with Tim for the past decade,” Interim County Manager Leo Lew, who joined the county in 2009, the same year as Kanavel, said. “The growth and development in the county over the past 10 years is in large part because of him. It was easy to see that Tim lived the life he loved and he lived it to the fullest. He will be dearly missed as a colleague and friend. Our condolences go out to Tim's family and loved ones."
Kanavel had been working to create synergy among the county’s newest economic development prospects and attract more of them in a “tech corridor” between Arizona State University and University of Arizona.
“Very sad news. Tim was an amazing talented man,” Anthony Smith, a former Pinal County supervisor from Maricopa, tweeted Wednesday. “Always such a positive attitude and economic development champion. He will be very much missed.”
State Sen. T.J. Shope, R-Coolidge, tweeted, “Just horrible news and a terrible gut punch to hear this. Tim has been so instrumental to the growth in Pinal County and will be missed.”
Kanavel formerly worked as a driller in the oilfields of Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia. After graduating from the University of Arizona with a Bachelor of Science degree in regional development in 1997, he became a research analyst for the Greater Tucson Economic Council (now Sun Corridor Inc.).
He also worked for the Arizona Department of Commerce (now the Arizona Commerce Authority) as a project manager; at Tucson International Airport as the human resources director; and for Wickenburg Regional Economic Development Partnership as president, before coming to Pinal County.
In April 2004, he was presented with the Arizona Association for Economic Development’s “Economic Developer of the Year Award — Large Community” while working for the Arizona Department of Commerce. In April 2017, he received the “Economic Developer of the Year Award — Medium Community,” which made him the first person in the state to receive the award twice. In 2018, Pinal County’s Economic Development Department received the “Economic Organization of the Year Award — Medium Community.”
Pinal County hired Kanavel in 2009 to coordinate and stimulate economic activities. In addition to business recruitment, marketing, retention and assisting the various towns, cities and other economic development entities in the county, his focus was on the planning, development and implementation of economic policies, programs and relationships to establish all of Pinal County as a major economic player in the Sun Corridor, according to his biography on the county website.
In the late 1980s and all through the 1990s, Kanavel received various Boy and Cub Scouting leadership awards. In 2006 he was inducted into the American Youth Football Coaches Hall of Fame and also the American Youth Football Donor Wall of Fame.
He was the proud father of three sons and four grandchildren.