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FLORENCE — The Pinal County Board of Supervisors approved agreements with two state universities Wednesday related to the future Arizona Technology Corridor through Pinal County.

The Technology Corridor will highlight the county’s business clusters near the interstate highways and promote the area as a place to build and collaborate with similar industries, according to plans.

The board approved an agreement between Pinal County and the Arizona Board of Regents for the planning and implementation of the corridor. The agreement gives Pinal County the benefit of University of Arizona’s research, planning and leadership, Tim Kanavel, Pinal County economic development manager, told the board. Total cost to the county will be $225,000 over an 18-month period.

“This is going to be a long process; it’s not going to be done within a day or two, or even a couple of years. We need to plan it and we need to plan it right.” It’s not just recruiting companies, but developing the infrastructure to meet their needs, Kanavel said.

“This could be up to a 35-year project … it’ll take that long to develop all the property. And (UA is) talking close to $70 billion worth of high-tech companies we could bring into this corridor. That’s their estimate, not ours.” Kanavel said a UA representative will be available for monthly or quarterly updates to the board.

In a few weeks, Kanavel said he expects to be able to announce a foreign investor planning a technology center in Pinal County.

The board also approved an agreement with Arizona State University for the Seidman Research Institute to assess the economic potential of an inland port in Pinal County. The cost of the study is $108,200 and is included in the county’s new annual budget.

According to ASU’s written proposal, Pinal County’s strategic location has prompted several discussions about an inland port. An inland port, or dry port, is a distribution hub, usually connected by rail to one or more seaports. Potential locations for a new port include Pinal Airpark, Red Rock and the railways near Arizona Farms Road near Florence.

Manager’s report

Pinal County Manager Louis Andersen reported the county had 1,737 active COVID-19 cases. He said the county would submit a request for $34.9 million in federal CARES Act reimbursement for public health and public safety expenses related to COVID-19. The application was reviewed by the state auditor general and the Governor’s Office, “and they said our application looked great, so hopefully we’ll see something within five to seven days.”

Andersen continued that the county’s “Business Sustainability Program,” to help businesses struggling as a result of COVID-19, began Monday. The program has received 44 applications from all over the county and has already issued three checks totaling $23,635. Five applications were rejected for being non-commercial or from a non-qualifying business.

State Route 24 between Ellsworth and Ironwood roads is 95% designed and the Arizona Department of Transportation is putting it out for bid at the end of the month, Andersen said.

He also provided an update on area wildfires.

Other action

The board also:

Approved the Gila River Indian Community’s terms for right of way associated with improvements to Hunt Highway and authorized the county attorney to prepare the documents necessary for transfer of right of way.

  • Approved the creation of a new position, deputy director of facilities management. Pinal County Facilities Management Director Archie Carreon told the board the position is included in the new fiscal year budget. Supervisor Todd House, R-Apache Junction, said the county is growing and the position is needed. He added he liked that Carreon was thinking ahead to a succession plan for when Carreon retires in a year.
  • Approved the Fiscal Year 2019-20 Market Adjustment and Equity Compensation Plan. To help maintain market competitiveness and help recruitment and retention of county employees, an additional adjustment of 0.5% is authorized for eligible employees. The across-the-board increase will be applied before any market-based changes are applied, according to the plan.

Market adjustments and across-the-board increases will be made at the beginning of the last pay period in the old fiscal year.

Directed the Pinal County attorney to file a civil action against B.A. Hong Inc. and Hong’s Family LLC for violations of Pinal County Air Quality regulations at a gas station and convenience store at 2012 N. Trekell Road in Casa Grande.

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Mark Cowling is the county reporter for PinalCentral and covers the town of Florence, San Tan Valley and the surrounding area. He can be reached at mcowling@pinalcentral.com.

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