/ Modified aug 30, 2013 7:19 p.m.

AZ Week: Municipalities Rebounding, Cautiously

Mayors, other officials express optimism as they leave depths of recession behind, including big budget cuts.


Marie Lopez Rogers portrait Marie Lopez Rogers, mayor of Avondale and president, National League of Cities. (PHOTO: AZPM)
Doug Von Gausig portrait Doug Von Gausig, Clarkdale mayor, League of Arizona Cities and Towns president. (PHOTO: AZPM)

Detroit's bankruptcy filing last month shocked the nation, especially other municipalities, but it was the antithesis of where most cities find themselves, including in Arizona, officials say.

"I believe it’s an anomaly," said Marie Lopez Rogers, National League of Cities president and Avondale mayor. "Going across the country, I’m seeing cities actually looking a lot better than they were a few years ago.”

Rogers and other municipal officials from around the state spoke for Friday's Arizona Week broadcast from the League of Arizona Cities and Towns annual conference at the Hilton El Conquistador Golf & Tennis Resort in Oro Valley.

Arturo Garino portrait Arturo Garino, mayor of Nogales, Ariz. (PHOTO: AZPM)
Ken Strobeck portrait 083013 Ken Strobeck, executive director, League of Arizona Cities and Towns. (PHOTO: AZPM)

Rogers' sentiments about how municipal governments are doing in recovering from the recession were echoed by others at the conference.

"Everybody is just now coming out of the recession," said Doug Von Gausig, mayor of Clarkdale and president of the Arizona league. "I talk to people, and there's a great sense of optimism going on in Arizona's communities. ... People are really excited right now about seeing new ways that we're going to handle the future in Arizona. Overall, a very good sense of optimism."

League Executive Director Ken Strobeck said municipalities are remaining cautious, budgeting conservatively and responsibly managing their resources. At the same time, he said, they are seeing daylight.

Satish Hiremath portrait Satish Hiremath, mayor of Oro Valley. (PHOTO: AZPM)

"The news is good," Strobeck said. "Cities and towns are coming back, but they're coming back slowly and very carefully."

Supporting economic growth and job creation in their communities has become the mantra for governmental leaders across the political spectrum, officials said.

"We're all about economic development, and looking at how we create jobs for our residents," she said. "Certainly across the nation that's always an issue."

In municipalities small, medium-sized and large, the goal of job growth is consistent, as it is at the state level.

Von Gausig said cities and towns need to show legislators "what things they can do to make economic development a bigger priority."

He said that in Clarkdale, a Yavapai County town of 4,100 that is "kind of at the end of the road," he and others have recognized that their chief economic asset is the Verde River, for kayaking, birding and other recreational activities, and it is an asset that "we had always kind of ignored in the past.

In Nogales, trade with Mexico, most especially Mexican consumers, is the key to job growth, Mayor Arturo Garino said. While retail sales to have stabilized, more growth is needed and hoped for, especially as a byproduct of the buildup of the twin border cities as a distribution center for goods heading to the United States from Mexico, he said.

In Oro Valley, where the average household income was more than $70,000 in 2012, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, the pharmaceutical industry is the focal point, Mayor Satish Hiremath said.

"One of the things we have done very well is really recognizing what assets that we have and trying to capitalize on that," Hiremath said. " ... Oro Valley, in its inventory, has two of the top five global poharmaceutical companies in the world. So we thought, there's no sense in reinventing the wheel. Why don't we capitalize on that?"

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