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.