So what’s up with the Flag? Well after having been reviewing the area we find that the Flag is Fine. Flagstaff has been growing for quite some time since it was named after a pine tree used for a flag pole in 1876 as the travelers come to the top of the mountain on the old trail. Although not as fast as the other mega growth parts of Arizona, it has been holding it’s own against the growth of other parts of this great nation.
The GMP Gross Metropolitan Product grew about 6.3% during the 1990-2000 decade. But the real growth has been more recent and expected to be 3.6% yearly. Why, well many second homes, retirees, and Metro PHX and Southern CA refugees with PhDs. As a matter of fact there are more PhDs in Flagstaff than that of any other city in Arizona.
There are many self-employed workers working form home as consultants. More self-employed home office people than any other place in the Arizona and equal to that of Sedona. Tourism is down, but only slightly at 2.2% and for touristy areas, less than most other places in the country, mostly due to the need for driving. Everything is spread out, lots of parks, Grand Canyon, Indian cites. America West has increased flights. Flag is the point of departure for all these locations of interest. We met people here from England, France, China and from many states on there way to Las Vegas, Grand Canyon, State Parks as well as from PHX and Los Angeles, many house shoppers, motor home travelers and people on vacation, this is said to be a year around thing. On any given day there are 5000 plus people traveling through and spending money. Many people come up for the day to shop at the outlet center or just hang out and go into town from Sedona and we met a great couple from Williams. Lots of people who live in the sticks come to town once or twice a week.
Recently tourism was hurt due to the fuel prices and Kinder Morgan pipeline break a month ago. This is because no one could get gas and drive up the hill to get out of the heat (only about 2 hours with moderate traffic, at night you can fly if you have the power). Flag of course being anywhere from 10-15 degrees less hot in the summer time. And when it hits 115 in PHX, everyone wants to leave. Wouldn’t you? They get in there air conditioned car to take a drive and simply end up in Flag? No, just kidding, but it is the joke around town these days. Cost of living is above the national average by a quite a bit mostly due to wealthy city dwellers moving up the hill. They typically come to the town set up and stay five years and get bored and move back. Except for the draft dodger cave dweller, stayed in a cave 11 years in the state park and they kicked him out and told him he must not come back?
The artificial real estate is causing hard ship for kids trying to buy into the town, soaks up all the apartments along with the University of Northern AZ. They claim to be number 8 in the city for the most healthy places to live, bringing in the Granolas. The High Schools have one of the lowest drop out rates in the country. Due to the second hand homes, the K-3 enrollments are dropping, older populations age trends are occurring.
Families just starting out are finding it difficult to stay. Some yuppie soccer mom SUV members moving in but not as fast as the retiree or older professional crowd, wanting out of the rat race and still being able to afford to. This is happening in many similar cities we have visited.
Major Employers include W.L Gore and Associates, which makes medical supplies; Flagstaff medical Center; Grand Canyon Tourist Railway. Remember the railroad has been there since 1881, NACOG – government training (and they need the training too don’t they?), SWCAA, Inc. Environmental Products due to assistance available to all.
Walgrens Distribution, Distribution and Transportation are doing well there and there are just a ton of hotels and restaurants to cater to the tourist. Hurt bad recently was the telemarketing firm Sturner and Klien, although luckily they have other avenues. Nestle Purina cat food manufacturers and it smells like cat food on that side of town, ha ha ha, no really. Lowell famous observatory also there.
Cleaning industry is alive and well there both in pressure washing and Car Washes. Five Guys Car Wash (HA), Flag Car Wash, Twin Pines Car Wash. Also the pressure washing Flagstaff Pressure Washing, Perkins Power Wash, Tryton Enterprises, Joes Power Washing. Now mind you these are pretty good operators and there are only 57,000 people in town living year around. Not including college kids and second homes. Which are both large numbers.
The service sector is alive and well in Flag. Retail and Hospitality also. The Mall is expanding and currently has some 723 construction workers building and these is helping job situation. Retail jobs created by this mall expansion is about 240 additional with approximately 48 non-related supporting jobs in town. For a complete listing of Chamber Businesses. Many jobs currently available for those who want to work?
There are several school improvement construction jobs going on as well as a Downtown revitalization. Multi-million dollar downtown 6 blocks project. Multi-level parking structure and shopping district. The economic Development people are working hard in retention and expansion and training labor supply, trying to increase the number of high paying jobs to the area to keep the families in town and doing well. Many of the families who move down the hill complain about the traffic and want to move back to their home in flag.
Telecommunication is a big issue and they have a big fiber optic line from PHX in now, for great service. Broadband by satellite is available by two vendors. The area is also great for distribution companies with 80 trains coming through a day, some people complain, but the railroad is part of the scenery and has been since 1894 when it was incorporated.
Flag also has a distribution center along the I-40 and an enterprise zone and huge truck stop. The technology park at the airport has just increased by 11 acres. The University has special projects in renewables, energy and engineering. The Solar Project is cutting edge similar to the Tempe University Center’s work. In town is Southwest Wind power, manufacturing getting the benefit of college labor from special projects and the technology too. Flagstaff just came out of level two drought and will most likely have to be careful with water resources as it expands, this is a significant issue for us in flagstaff. Golf Courses, center dividers, city landscaping and Cities careful to use gray water.
There have been in droughts times watering restrictions, and they were happy to see we were low water users for car washing, they like the idea and think this is of value. We found the service sector to be under whelming and if you provide great service you will be slammed with work and thus, not be able to service demand through the referrals you get, it is that type of town and the demand for service is high and we see incredible growth in that sector.
Unemployment is low at 4.9%. There is 11.3% American Indian, who are great labor sources and they really get along well and provide so much to the ambience and heritage of the town/city (still in between). Biggest age group is changing fast and moving upward. Currently 25-40 makes up 30% of population, but fast rising is the 45-65 age group. The tiger files predict 70,000 by 2010, I disagree, with all things equal I expect that number to be more like 85,000. The annual population growth is 3% so that is really high, but appears to be sustainable for some time, only issue again water supplies.
One time it did not rain for 140 days, then President Bush showed up for a speech and it rained, needless to say compassionate conservatism took on a whole new meaning, as he won over a big part of that 6980 foot above sea level city. Annual precipitation was about 21 inches but lately has been much less. Snowfall is good at 100 inches and they need it for the water to soak in and collect. It rarely gets over 90 degrees in summer but the winters can be quite chilly and very beautiful with all the snow, which attracts year around tourism. Being along I-40 it is also a good stopping point for weary travelers and thus collects quite a bit of it’s cash flow without it escaping easily. In July the sales tax went up to 8.125%, and that is the 1.54% city tax, .8125% County tax and the State sales tax. This has promoted many to drive down the hill to buy new cars. Unfortunately this has not been good for that auto sector, however the new inflows of money have also helped sales so maybe the shock is not too bad. One Patel family hotel owner complained about the room tax increases but said «that is okay, because now they have to listen to my wife when she goes down to city hall because we are funding the place?» I laughed and then thought to myself he has a point, luckily the other nearby cities also have hotel taxes, but Winslow, AZ does not, Williams does. So it is a toss up. There is some Agriculture going on in Flagstaff and the farmer’s markets do quite well and there is some good stuff to buy here.
Today agriculture is somewhat small with only about 60 people employed in that sector and they are not large water users. Service sector employs just over 16,000 people and it is growing fast. We were very interested in the projects and job growth and new facilities going up.
We were also excited to find NAU had an employment office for students to find work, good labor source, phone number is (928)-523-9463 . Also good was Arthur’s job Base.
We have noticed the crime rate is not too bad, but substance abuse is an issue. Alcoholism and Drug issues still continue but overall crime has been reduced somewhat over the years even with the increase in population. Over all we really like it here and believe there is a lot of potential. Judging by the competition and their busy schedules a company committed to service in nearly any service sector is good as gold in the city of the Pine Tree Flag Pole.