President’s Message: GYEDC Focuses on Food Production

Yuma Proving Ground is known throughout the world for its testing capabilities. Marine Corps Air Station Yuma continues to be the weapon and tactics instruction leader for the Department of Defense.

The vision of the Greater Yuma Economic Development Corporation, which locates and attracts industry to the region, is now to “elevate Yuma’s presence in the testing and development of healthy food products to the same level as YPG and MCAS.”

Julie Engel, president and CEO, said the organization will continue to market Yuma County’s assets to aerospace and defense companies, tying these attributes with the food production goals.

“Yuma County can become world renowned for our overall testing capabilities. This is a bold statement that will take years to accomplish, but this is a goal supported by a strategy and will have long-term positive impacts for the regional economy,” Engel said at the annual dinner held Oct. 26 to thank investors and present GYEDC’s annual report.

This does not dismiss the need for better logistical infrastructure nor does it supplant the desire to remain a diversified economy, she noted. “This will enhance the diversity by building upon Yuma’s largest economic driver, our agriculture.”

As GYEDC continues implementing its strategy, the organization is more closely aligned with the University of Arizona’s Center of Excellence as they work towards developing the ecosystem necessary to develop new opportunities for food production, product development and new technologies “to elevate Yuma County’s importance in feeding the growing world population.”

Engel pointed out that new relationships have been established to help GYEDC reach this goal and “intimately” will be aligned with education to help achieve the desired results.

Engel reported that business attraction and retention efforts continue to grow, proudly noting that the region welcomed four new companies who have made significant impacts in the job market and tax base.

“Almark Foods, Martech Medical, LRC Coil and MPW are making tremendous capital investments in Yuma County along with creating great jobs for Yuma County residents,” she said.

Overall the region witnessed a 20 percent increase in wages from 2014/15. “This is not a result of the increase in the state’s minimum wage. These are jobs that start well above the minimum wage threshold,” she noted.

This past year GYEDC completed its annual Business Retention Survey for the industry sectors of manufacturing, agriculture, construction, logistics and utilities. A key finding is 59 percent of the companies interviewed are in a growth phase. For example, Engel said, Insultech is constructing a new facility and will be adding additional employees with its expansion.

Companies are displaying confidence in the local economy and investing in their facilities and workforce. However, they did express some issues with finding the skilled labor they require and technical training offered locally was not meeting their needs. GYEDC is addressing this issue.

Statistics for 2016/17 strongly indicate “the region is recovering and the economy is growing at a healthy pace.” The region posted positive growth in the sales tax base and building permits issued, new job creation and an increase in the value of bank deposits while showing a solid reduction in the county unemployment rate.

“Our public sector investors continue to march towards the per capita funding model the corporation adopted in 2013/14. Yuma County has committed to reaching their goal by 2019 by making a significant increase annually,” Engel said.

She thanked the GYEDC Board of Directors for their dedication and commitment to growing private sector revenues. GYEDC increased private investment by more than $20,000 and continues to bring new investors into the corporation.

“As we attract new companies who have international ties, we will grow our revenues through our Foreign Trade Zone services,” she added.

The financials demonstrate the corporation is in “solid” financial condition and will continue to function at the current level “due to the commitment we have from both our public and private sector investors.”

GYEDC ended the year with net revenue of $59,509 “and this was by design.: Engel said the organization has strategically grown its cash balance in order to implement the next phase of its five-year strategy.

“This year will be the year we increase our marketing campaign to include trade shows and road trips to specific site selectors. The revenue earned in 2016/17 will offset these additional expenses,” she explained.

In expressing appreciation to the investors, Engel concluded her message with these words: “Together we can grow this economy and increase the relevance of our region nationally and internationally. We have great partners that will also be instrumental in the success and future of Yuma County and San Luis, Sonora. I am very excited about the future and look forward to 2017/18 and beyond.”

By Mara Knaub, @YSMaraKnaub Yuma Sun
Nov 5, 2017