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15 Apr

Havasu officials gear up for ABC competition finale

  • By BRANDON MESSICK Today’s News-Herald

The city’s first economic and community development plan of its kind will be reviewed in Denver this week in the final round of Frontier Communications’ “America’s Best Communities” competition.

Havasu is now one of eight communities that will vie for three top prizes of $1 million, $2 million and $3 million on April 19.

That day will mark the end of the two-year collaborative planning effort by Havasu City officials, the Havasu Convention and Visitor’s Bureau, the Lake Havasu Area Chamber of Commerce, the Havasu Partnership for Economic Development and other community leaders.

It all began when Havasu’s Vision 20/20 team organized its first town hall meeting in December 2015, where a crowd of about 80 Havasu residents brainstormed ways to foster economic growth while revitalizing the community. That was the start of the Vision 20/20 initiative, which has since grown to incorporate input from businesses and residents from almost every background throughout the city.

“One of the keys to our success has been being able to engage our stakeholders,” PED Executive Director James Gray said. “We started by gathering input from people of varied backgrounds to create the rough draft of what would become Vision 20/20.”

What eventually materialized were step-by-step plans toward smaller goals that address economic development, education, tourism, water and community engagement. The complete final plan is available at

Gray will attend the ABC competition’s final round, joining Havasu Mayor Mark Nexsen, City Councilman Cal Sheehy, City Manager Charlie Cassens and PED Vice President Tanya Krueger to present the plan to a panel of judges. Their 15-minute multimedia presentation is expected to document the journey of Havasu’s Vision 20/20 initiative.

Three of the plan’s main initiatives included Havasu’s Downtown Revitalization Project, the city’s planned Eco-Environmental Center and the planned Economic Development Center, about which officials have discussed with residents and stakeholders at length, Gray said.

“Engaging the community has empowered our plan,” Gray said. “The more people know what we’re doing…it shows results. We were inspired to engage the community to make sure we were on the right track. It’s been a several-year process for a lot of our team members, and the meeting in Denver will be the culmination of that effort. Mostly, the contest has galvanized different organizations to renew their synergy and be part of a bigger process.”

Officials have said that regardless of how far Havasu progressed in the competition, the plan would be used to shape Havasu’s development over the next several decades.

“We’re putting our best foot forward,” Nexsen said. “It’s very exciting to see the competition come to a close; but regardless of the outcome, execution of our revitalization plan will continue.”

But according to Krueger, Vision 20/20 isn’t set in stone.

“Vision 20/20 is neverending,” Krueger said. “It’s a living plan – active and changing. It doesn’t end next Wednesday. It’s going to continue, and this is what our work has really been committed to.”

Announcement of the competition’s winners will be live-streamed at 4 p.m. April 19, in a ceremony at the Denver Marriott Tech Center’s Evergreen Ballroom.