October 2013 Flagstaff Business News column

Nation’s County Leaders Experience Coconino County’s Wonder

By Cynthia Seelhammer
Coconino County Manager

Attracting visitors to Coconino County during the height of tourist season benefits our local economies, supports our families and communities, and also allows others to see exactly what makes Northern Arizona so special.

In May, Coconino County helped to bring more than 400 visitors to the area when we hosted the National Association of Counties Western Interstate Region Conference. NACo is an organization that acts as a unified voice for the nation’s 3,069 counties on federal issues and assists them in finding innovative solutions to save taxpayer money.

We hosted the Western Interstate Region (WIR) of NACo, which is dedicated to promoting issues of interest that impact the nation’s 15 western states, including Arizona, Alaska, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, Washington and Wyoming. The conference, held over the long Memorial Day weekend at Flagstaff’s High Country Conference Center, allowed the County to showcase its innovative approach to operating multiple programs but also gave attendees an opportunity to experience Coconino County.

Many conference attendees extended their stays to visit the Grand Canyon, Williams, Lake Powell and Page, and others hiked or biked in our scenic landscape and filled local shops.

While the WIR Conference was the main draw for many who attended, the event pumped more than $750,000 into the local economy, according to an economic impact study by the Northern Arizona University Rural Policy Institute.

Conference attendees filled local hotel rooms, restaurants and retailers across Northern Arizona and in addition to local spending, the event generated an estimated $72,000 in federal taxes, $50,000 in state taxes, and $40,000 in local taxes, the study found.

The national conference, which ran from May 22 to 24, allowed the County to showcase its innovative post-Schultz Fire and flooding mitigation projects and successful efforts to coordinate criminal justice services, but also left plenty of time for attendees to explore the region.

The impact of conferences such as these reverberates throughout local businesses, which can then invest in employees and continue to grow. If those who attended the WIR Conference enjoyed their time, chances are they may return or share with others that Northern Arizona is worth a visit.

The County, working with NACo and such partners as the Flagstaff Convention and Visitors Bureau, planned for the event for nearly three years by promoting the conference, acquiring sponsors, developing agendas and planning multiple conference-wide events.

Such planning and partnering with local organizations to promote our area was well appreciated and helped to ensure the County hosted a flawless event.

NACo President Linda Langston stated recently that she was encouraged by how prepared the County was to host the national conference and was pleased that it had a positive impact on Northern Arizona.
“Coconino County not only hosted a very productive conference, but also did an excellent job of showcasing the area,” Langston said. “At every turn attendees were well informed by staff of all the opportunities to recreate and enjoy their stay before, during and after the conference.”

As county leaders returned to their homes, it was refreshing to hear how much each enjoyed their time visiting Coconino County and venturing out into experience the best of Northern Arizona.

Our slogan for the event was “Come for the conference, stay for the wonder.” It’s great knowing many did exactly that.

For more information on NACo, visit the National Association of Counties and for the full economic analysis by NAU, please visit Coconino website wirimpact.

Cynthia Seelhammer serves as Coconino County Manager. This column was submitted and likely ran in the October edition of the Flagstaff Business News.