The history of this endeavor started in discussions approximately 5 years ago to address reuse of the restaurant with expiring Sonic lease. That expanded into other areas of brainstorming with the community, other stakeholders and Tonto Apache citizens. In 2020 during the global pandemic, the Tribal Council experienced economic hardships for their nation that shares a border with the City of Payson and Gila County. With labor and economic challenges, the existing economic entities experienced shortfalls and due to the reduced revenues impacted the bottom line on services for Tribal citizens. That was when they reached out to find a specialized company that provided services beyond a feasibility study and that was Native-Owned.

               In 2021 through the leadership of Chairman Calvin Johnson, the Tribal Council set an innovative policy to find ways to diversify the economy. Additionally, when the Tonto Apache Nation economy grows, so does the surrounding economy in Payson and Gila County. The Nation first sought the assistance of aLocal to help determine the economic viability of some of their current investments. As a Native Owned company, aLocal specialized in AI market and economic analytics to ensure Tonto Apache would receive high end econometric analytics to make good decisions for their Nation and the surrounding area. Additionally, with the financial challenges of the Tribe, there is not a dedicated planner so Tonto Apache intentionally focused on everyone serving in a planning capacity to bring out the best ideas based on data and analytics.


               The reservation land also included other unique challenges. First, the reservation was split on both sides of A-87 and the goal of the Tribal Council is to create connectivity between the two sides. The second is the geography of the land. Some areas are too steep and some areas too spread out so Tonto Apache would not achieve the agglomerative benefits of planning for medium density development. In response to some of these challenges, Tonto has begun conversations on exploring other traffic calming and management techniques to address the inefficiencies of the stoplights that impede access and traffic flow on A-87. Additionally, review of other proposals with the local road authorities and ADOT are in current discussions to see how creating solutions for traffic congestion can improve the quality of life and economy. Finally, Tonto Apache is exploring other pedestrian and equestrian solutions to connect with existing trails.


               After analyzing the existing investments, Chairman Johnson and the Council requested that the entire reservation area is reviewed to determine 1) what dollars were leaking outside the economy, 2) what industries are in demand and 3) what would the benefits be to Tonto Apache and the surrounding area? They utilized aLocal to lead the final analysis and development efforts to move the project forward.
               Through an in-depth analysis using aLocal, Tonto Apache saw an opportunity to stimulate the regional economy and begin exploring what industries would be feasible. They began to analyze the possible business ventures, potential revenue and the net economic impact to the tribe and region. This planning exercise included multiple stakeholders with the Nation as well as other community stakeholders. Using feedback from the community conversations, Tonto Apache determined what was best for their nation. This included some intuitive opportunities, such as retail, food and beverage as well as other opportunities that included, but not limited to, warehousing, light industrial and storage.
               The Tribe worked on the development of a business plan to meet the financial obligations of what industries would help support financial gains as well as positive impacts in the region. Using sophisticated financial modeling as well as analyzing the current economic conditions, they developed a plan to introduce Apache Corners in phases. The future of this development will change the Tonto Apache Nation as well as provide a positive economic impact for the City of Payson, surrounding areas and Gila County.