By Toni Gibbons
With drones in the sky, the implementation of improved broadband and a grant funded study to help the economic development team; Navajo County is looking to address the economic challenges ahead in 2018 with the goal to create continued success in the region.
During 2017, the county implemented the use of five drones to help Public Works staff inspect infrastructure and conduct surveys, as well as to help the Navajo County Sheriff’s Office with search and rescue operations. Navajo County Engineering Project Manager Jason Owens became a certified FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) pilot last year and was able to begin expanding the use of the drones.
While the county is looking to increase the use of the drones to improve services and lower operating costs, Communication Manager Adam Wolfe said, “When the drones are sent up to do surveys, we let the residents in that area know.”
Drones and emerging technology will also play an important role in wildfire mitigation as the county further develops its efforts to expand forest management throughout the region.
In an effort to make the region more viable for future businesses and telecommunications, the county is looking to facilitate partnerships with local schools, libraries, emergency services and healthcare organizations to improve regional connectivity and communication through improved broadband.
Economic Workforce and Development Director Paul Watson said Navajo County will be conducting a grant-funded study to help the economic development team better calculate the impact of the declining coal industry, identify needed infrastructure to bring in future industry and potentially identify industries best suited for the area. Currently, the region is seeing more promising growth in agriculture.
By early summer, renovations to the White Mountain Facility in Show Low will be completed to provide justice and superior court services for southern communities. This will add another centralized facility to downtown Show Low which has already added the joint-use public safety facility housing the Show Low Police Department and Navajo County Sheriff’s Office.