Mohave County Supervisors OK hiring economic development chief in split vote

December 18, 2018

The Mohave County Board of Supervisors voted Monday to hire the county’s new economic development director in a 3-2 vote. Lake Havasu City’s presiding supervisors, Buster Johnson and Ron Gould, opposed the decision.

Utah resident Tami Ursenbach could start as early as Jan. 7, earning a $80,246 salary. Ursenbach’s knowledge and experience as a veteran economic development director make her an ideal pick for the position, according to County Manager Mike Hendrix. She previously worked as an economic development director for the 20,000-population Carbon County, Utah, from 2014 to 2017.

“We can have economic development without incentives,” Hendrix said at Monday’s board meeting. “We’ve done that for a long time. When we receive contact from someone who wants to get information to try to relocate here, that’s a huge service the economic development director will be providing.”

According to Gould, economic development in Mohave County has been a matter of rolling out the red carpet for the biggest business to express an interest. Such was the case earlier this year, Gould said, when Mohave County offered $500,000 in economic incentives to bring food redistribution company Dot Foods to Bullhead City.

“Economic development has locally boiled down to a matter of who we can bribe to come to our county,” Gould said. “I don’t think it’s the government’s place to pick winners and losers – it’s government’s job to create an atmosphere that’s conducive for all businesses. I’ll work with her as best as I can … My vote isn’t a reflection on her, but a reflection on my political perspective.”

Ursenbach’s job will be multifaceted, Hendrix said. She will be charged with not only targeting available businesses, but developing relationships with utility companies, chambers of commerce, cities and municipal economic development directors. The end result, he believes, will be a network of essential information created to aid any business that may express interest in Mohave County. Perhaps the most burdensome of Ursenbach’s responsibilities, however, will be crafting Mohave County’s future vision for economic development.

According to Supervisor Johnson, Mohave County’s Board of Supervisors has no vision of its own for economic development, and that in itself is a source of frustration.

“I don’t think we’re ready,” Johnson said. “We have no plan on what the board thinks economic development is. When I worked in economic development, we found out what we needed first. We looked at the bigger companies, we went out, found them and convinced them to come here … right now, we have no vision for what we want to see.”

According to Supervisor Jean Bishop, Ursenbach’s new position will be enough to provide simplicity to the county’s economic development.

“The value of this position to me is being their advocate, so businesses who come to Mohave County will have one voice and one person to speak with,” Bishop said. “I think that makes it a lot simpler and more welcoming when this person knows who to send individual businesses to whoever they need to see. There’s a realm of questions any business is going to have when they come here.”

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