Tue, July 23

Economic development position filled
Cottonwood hires Casey Rooney

The City of Cottonwood has created an economic development position and has hired Casey Rooney from Champagne, Ill., to lead the effort in promoting business and boosting the economy.

"We've hired Casey to network the economic interests around town, help attract new industry and help develop a business retention and expansion program," said Community Development Director George Gehlert.

And that is what Rooney is focused on.

"One of my goals in the community is to bring in new business, but also retain and expand existing businesses," Rooney said. "I hope to provide the tools for people to expand their businesses."

Rooney is looking forward to working with site selectors for companies who are looking to set up shop in the Verde Valley. He is also focussed on jobs, improving the City of Cottonwood Web site and networking with local chambers of commerce and businesses.

Rooney comes from Illinois, where he was the economic development manager for the Champagne County Regional Planning Commission. The city of Champagne is a college community with a population of roughly 100,000. Rooney was responsible for developing the county's economic development policy.

"The thing I enjoyed most was working with companies and helping them get started and established in the community," he said.

He is excited about mirroring that work here.

"For instance, I see a whole lot of activity by the airport right now," he said. "I see a whole lot of possibilities of getting more small businesses."

Rooney is looking for large business as well. He said there are many 20,000 to 30,000-square-foot buildings in the area, but not a lot of 50,000-square-foot buildings that can be the site for a new company that will employ a number of high-paying technical jobs.

Rooney noted a 50,000-square-foot building built in Prescott for an aerospace company.

"They came and provided lots of new jobs," he said.

He said many of these types of companies hire site selectors to find a place to relocate, start or expand its business. They then contact chambers of commerce or cities or towns "and say hey, I'm looking for a 60,000-square-foot building."

One way site selectors research an area is via the Internet. This is why Rooney believes it is crucial to improve the city's Web site and to include information on economic development.

In addition, Rooney said he needs people in the community to inform him of what is available.

"I need people to tell me, yeah, I have a 64-acre site with gas and electricity."

Rooney will also be working with the Foundation for Economic Development in attempts to better the community.

"We need to figure out what we have and don't have in the community -- strengths weaknesses, threats and opportunities," he said. "Then, I'm going to take it to the FED and ask them how right I am so we can identify where we are going and what our priorities are."

Rooney is a prior chamber of commerce director, which led him into economic development. He spent much of his career working in industry for multi-national corporations, then shifted to work with small manufactures. He spent 12 years in California. He said he found his niche working with smaller companies.

His wife is "an expert in transportation." They both wanted to relocate to Arizona. They each found positions in the state.

"I think Regionally, I'd like to be able to partner up with other communities to strengthen not only Cottonwood but the Verde Valley," Rooney said. "I think I've got the support from the City of Cottonwood to do that. I'm here to knock down walls, not build them up. I'm hoping that through word of mouth and (other networking means) people feel comfortable calling me up to work together to make things happen."