Gov. Janet Napolitano sees Pinal County as the state’s “epicenter of growth.”
And the stresses the county faces as unprecedented growth impacts economic development, water, transportation and schools are the same for the state, she said to more than 100 Pinal County stakeholders Thursday.
“Every issue the state has with growth is here — you are it,” Napolitano said. “When you have that growth, you have enormous infrastructure needs.”
Napolitano said the county must focus on quality growth through regional planning all while playing catch-up to the growth that has already occurred.
One area where the county is caught playing catch-up is transportation.
Napolitano said she wants to see more federal funds come through for roads in Arizona and noted that Pinal County “is certainly at the top of the list when we consider transportation projects.”
Napolitano also said she is encouraging transportation leaders to look at alternative transit options such as statewide commuter rail.
“We’re growing together, and we need to create a statewide vision for quality communities,” she said.
A year ago, Napolitano created a growth cabinet bringing together state leaders in all areas affected by growth including the Arizona Department of Transportation and the Department of Environmental Quality.
That cabinet works on finding solutions for the challenges growth presents.
In the next few weeks, the growth cabinet will be meeting with Pinal County officials to introduce a “score card” system developed at the state level. Criteria on the card will measure how communities are “engaging in quality growth” and new state funds will be distributed as a reward for communities that are doing so, she said.
“We’re right in the middle of all the fast growth,” said Pinal County Supervisor Sandie Smith, D-District 2. “We must chose to grow as we have been or guide that growth. We chose to guide it.”
Jordan Rose, a land use attorney and founding member of the Pinal Partnership, which hosted the event, said the governor was “dead on” with her speech.
“She spoke about all of the stresses, and it sounds like she is proposing some answers,” she said.
Rose said she is pleased the governor acknowledges the growth issues the county has, particularly because it is the hub of the Arizona Sun Corridor — a future megapolitan area with the joining of the Phoenix and Tucson metropolitan areas.