• Arizona
  • Thursday , Feb 1 , 2018

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San Tan Valley Area Information

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Pinal County Appoints New Economic Development Director

County Manager Leo Lew is delighted to announce that the County has appointed James Smith as its new Director of Economic and Workforce Development. Smith will begin his role with the County on November 8, 2021.

James Smith comes to Pinal County from the Town of Fountain Hills, where he has served as Economic Development Director since May 2019. Previously, he worked for the City of Chandler's Economic Development Division for over twelve years, rising to Economic Development Program/Innovation Manager.

Smith will lead a team of six, focused on bringing Economic Development projects, increased tourism, and workforce opportunities to Pinal County. The role was formerly held by Tim Kanavel, who passed away earlier this year.

After a long and extensive search, County Manager Leo Lew is pleased to have secured Smith for the role, "We are very excited to have a proven economic development professional join our team and lead us into our bright future. James has been successful in the breadth of economic development activities throughout the various communities he has served. I believe he will have the most rewarding experiences of his career here in Pinal County as he unleashes the potential of our unique and talented communities."

Meanwhile, James Smith commented, "I am excited to join the Pinal County team and work in this dynamic environment. The projects that have recently located in the County are evidence of the competitiveness of the area and the team's ability to make big things happen. I look forward to assisting in the future success of the region."

Meet James Smith, CEcD
Pinal County's New Economic and Workforce Development Director
James Smith has nearly 24 years of municipal government experience, primarily in business/economic development.

He assumed the role of Economic Development Director for the Town of Fountain Hills, in May 2019. His focus was on leading efforts to attract and retain businesses and promote tourism as an important economic driver for the Town. Key initiatives have included assisting with the development of the Town's first hospital and a new HonorHealth urgent care facility which will open in the fall of 2021. He has also partnered with the Fountain Hills School District on BizHub@Fountain Hills, utilizing a former school facility as a business incubator/ accelerator.

Previous experience with the City of Chandler's Economic Development Division included managing numerous attraction and expansion projects for major corporations, including new operations for Allstate, Liberty Mutual, Voya Financial, and Republic Services. In addition, he led City efforts related to expansions by Northrop Grumman, NXP Semiconductor, and Rogers Corporation, which resulted in the relocation of their corporate headquarters to Chandler. Further experience was related to the redevelopment and reuse of commercial properties through the administration of the City's Commercial Reinvestment Program/Infill Incentive Plan, as well as leading efforts to implement an adaptive reuse program.

He holds Bachelor of Science (Economics) and Master of Public Administration degrees – both from San Jose State University. A graduate of the University of Oklahoma's Economic Development Institute, he is recognized by the International Economic Development Council (IEDC) as a Certified Economic Developer (CEcD). Recently, he completed the Certified Public Manager (CPM) program through Arizona State University.


At last night's Arizona Association for Economic Development (AAED) awards, former Pinal County Economic and Workforce Director Tim Kanavel was honored with the William Lampkin Lifetime Achievement Award.

Tim's family, including his son David and his brother Rollie, accepted the award, with other family members, friends, and colleagues in attendance.

Tim sadly passed away in February of 2021 at the age of 64. He had joined Pinal County in 2009 and oversaw more than $8 Billion of projects coming into the County. Most recently, these included electric-vehicle manufacturers Lucid Motors and Nikola Motors.

Tim led an award-winning Economic Development and Workforce Department, recognized in 2020 as Large Organization of the Year with an Excellence in Economic Development Award by the AAED.

The video below was played at the Awards Banquet, held in Flagstaff, and features those who worked closest with Tim sharing their memories of him.
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