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17 Apr

Our View: Prize money aside, Havasu is already a winner thanks to Vision 20/20

The $3 million question will be answered this week. More than two years of preparation and planning comes to a head on Wednesday as Frontier Communications decides which community should be called “America’s Best.”

We hope it’s Lake Havasu City, of course. The prize money could go a long way toward the betterment of the region, and local officials have some specific ideas about how it could be used. But we already know that this town of 52,000-plus people is among the country’s best communities.

Superlatives aside, Havasu has defied the odds in its relatively short existence, carving out a thriving community in a region that many would consider inhospitable. Challenges such as educational attainment and a lack of good jobs have been met head-on. Need examples? Local initiative helped attract Arizona State University’s newest campus to Havasu and local partnerships are encouraging business startups thanks to the Entrepreneurial Outreach Network.

Among Havasu’s intangible qualities is a sense of community and civic pride that’s particularly engaged for a city this size. That drive led the Vision 20/20 group, made up of dozens of community leaders, to build a plan to guide Havasu’s future regardless of how the ABC competition shapes up.

Indeed, we’re already seeing the fruits of those efforts – Citizens for Havasu Schools, a group inspired by the Vision 20/20 efforts, successfully campaigned for a $49 million bond and 15 percent budget override to help improve the state of local education.

The city, in partnership with private developers and Arizona State Parks, began the Havasu Riviera project, the largest development in Lake Havasu City since Robert McCulloch came to town. Havasu Riviera will include homes, businesses, parks and an environmental learning center that is a cornerstone project of the Vision 20/20 plan. Lake Havasu City also recently finalized the purchase of Springberg McAndrew Park on McCulloch Boulevard. Eventually that space will become a key gathering place for the community — another Vision 20/20 project.

Simply being named one of the eight finalists in this competition was a huge honor. We’ll be immensely proud if Havasu wins one of the three awards, but as far as we are concerned, Lake Havasu City is already a winner because of the heavy lifting that has already been done.

This week’s prize announcements won’t affect the plans much, but they could serve as validation that Lake Havasu City is on the right path — and a $3 million prize could move things along a little faster.

Good luck, Havasu.

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