Economic development summit hears city on upward swing
BULLHEAD CITY — An economic development summit held Wednesday at Mohave Community College allowed city government to highlight a variety of trends, concerns and opportunities for the Tri-state community.
“We’re back where you all think we should be,” said City Manager Toby Cotter. “Bullhead City is on a high trajectory.”
The city is back to pre-recession levels of building. There are a few weeks left in 2018 but city staff expects 225 single-family housing permits will have been issued this year. In 2017, there were only 144 permits and in 2016 just 104.
City sales tax collections regularly exceeded $3 million a quarter since late 2014.
Gaming was strong, too.
Unemployment in May was at 4.6 percent compared with 15.5 percent in January 2010.
Looking at sports tourism alone, Cotter said, Davis Camp had record volume and Section 12 proved over the summer that “If you build it, they will come.”
Dot Foods’ arrival, and the scheduled opening of the Anderson Auto Group Fieldhouse next March are growth highlights.
And, most important, “we have enough water,” Cotter said.
Don Laughlin is in the earliest stages of a potential mixed-use project in Old Bullhead, on 40-plus acres north of Seventh Street, according to staff. That neighborhood has been on the minds of city officials, who are looking at ways to reinvigorate the neighborhood between Community Park and the Laughlin Bridge.
Affordable housing needed in city
Johnny Loera, the city’s planning manager, provided detail about the local rental market.
For example, rental prices have gone up $50 to $100 during the past year and property managers turn away 20 to 30 people a day looking for rentals. Rentals are being pre-leased before they are ready to be put on the market.
The average estimated monthly apartment rental price was $581 in 2015 but rose to $717 in 2018. Cotter told the group that Realtors reported that in October alone there were 87 single-family home sales and 188 homes in escrow. The average sales price is more than $258,000.
“Casino workers can’t afford $250,000,” Cotter said. “We need more rental properties in the city.”
Cotter noted that Bullhead City is the most affordable city in Arizona and the cost of living is far below that of major California cities.
Sports tourism continues to grow
There was a tournament in the city every weekend from November 2017 to January 2019. Filling each weekend was a goal the city worked hard to attain, said Dave Heath, the city’s parks and recreation superintendent.
Senior softball has grown from 28 teams in 2007 to 128 teams in 2017. And the Senior Games, held in January, went from 139 participants in 2017 to 869 in 2018 because of a partnership with Senior Softball USA.
Heath and Jeff Tipton, the city’s human services director, did a presentation that resembled a game of catch by taking turns speaking each time the subject changed.
Tipton — a sports father — coined the term “tournication” to describe when sports families travel and try to fit in things they would do on a vacation such as sightseeing or eating at restaurants.
Sports tourism is believed to have increased city tax revenue from restaurants and bars by 35 percent in the past three years.
On the downside, Heath said, some businesses weren’t ready for the influx.
“A sandwich shop ran out of bread,” he said.
While the city can support more growth in sports tourism, the city needs to improve communication and prepare local businesses so they can serve the people coming to the area.
Cotter stressed that local youth also have access to the facilities that tournament participation has funded.
New business means new jobs
Rocky Vecera, Arizona general manager of Dot Foods, talked about his employer.
The Bullhead City distribution building was completed in February and has hired more 180 people since opening.
Vecera said Dot came to Bullhead City because it wanted to have a warehouse within 100 miles of Las Vegas and that Mohave County provided a location similar to other towns where the company operates. The entire company reached $7 billion in sales in 2017. The Bullhead City location was designed to easily add buildings as needed, to double its current size.
“We hired 186 people as of today. We anticipated hiring 120 people in our first year,” Vecera said. “We had more business volume than expected.”
Anderson Auto Group Fieldhouse
Gary Boren, general manager of the Anderson Auto Group Fieldhouse, talked about the ongoing project that will serve River Valley and Mohave high schools with an athletic complex that also will be used for special events, such as trade shows, conferences and graduations.
It also will provide classroom and meeting space for the community.
Prices “will be competitive with other venues in Arizona, Nevada and California,” Boren said. “We’re ready to make it happen.”