James Smith has been on the job as economic development director for the Town of Fountain Hills for a few months now and he is focusing on a couple of items that will present opportunities to expand economic development in the community.
The planned hospital, or Fountain Hills Medical Center, is one such project, according to Smith.
“We are doing what we can to support the hospital,” Smith said. “This is a group that wants to create jobs, and there is definitely a need.
“We are working with the ownership to provide resources and help they may need.”
The hospital is planned for 9700 N. Saguaro Blvd. at Trevino Drive. Phase I of the project will provide a full service emergency department, primary care, urgent care and walk-in clinic. It is a $15 million plan that is expected to create between 50 and 75 new jobs.
The other proposal that Smith is excited about in relation to economic development is the Arizona Astroscience Center planned for the downtown civic center area.
“This hits on a couple of strategic goals set by the council,” Smith said, “A more diverse demographic, attracting younger families and education.”
The $10 million project would be 13,000 square feet and include a telescope observatory, planetarium, exhibit hall and auditorium/theater facility.
The location is set on the corner of the existing Community Garden adjacent to the River of Time Museum and Library.
This project is contingent on a successful fundraising effort.
Smith said full use of the former Four Peaks Elementary School as the EVIT campus is part of the economic development plan as well.
Smith had no announcements regarding new commercial opportunities for Fountain Hills, but he said managing commercial opportunities is a focus of all communities regardless of size. He most recently worked in Chandler and said even a city of that size needs to maintain a proper balance between residential population and commercial space.
He said more people are turning to the internet for shopping, and while online purchases are now collecting more sales taxes for communities, they do impact the commercial infrastructure.
“The objective is to keep the resident shopper in the community,” Smith said. “It is likely there will be less need for brick and mortar structures going forward.
“As you approach build out, the land use needs to be optimal to collect sales tax to support the city.
“I think there are areas of the town that can be open to redevelopment, but there have been no discussions on specific plans.”
Smith also sees opportunities for partnerships with the town and businesses to encourage residents to shop locally.
“Spending the dollars here in Fountain Hills will help pay for services people want in the community,” Smith said.
“I believe Fountain Hills is one of the best kept secrets in the Valley. There is golf and hiking, this is a great place to spend a weekend afternoon.”
He said people come to the Valley every year for a multitude of events and activities.
“We need to make those visitors more aware of what a great place and how beautiful it is,” he said. “We can build on the opportunity already presented.”
Smith has been in Arizona for 13 years, originally coming from the Bay Area of California. His initial impressions of Fountain Hills are positive.
“This is a great community,” he said. “The people are very involved and rightfully proud of the community.
“I want to help execute the council’s vision to support the long-term stability for the town.”