Everything Is Coming Up Roses In Eloy

Everything Is Coming Up Roses In Eloy

By Terri Jo Neff |

Agriculture has long been a key to Arizona’s economy, as shown by the inclusion of cotton and citrus in the 5 C’s of the state’s top economic drivers (copper, climate, and cattle being the others).  But one company in Eloy believes the motto should be amended to include an R, as in roses.

In 1986, the rose was decreed by President Ronald Reagan as America’s national floral emblem. The next year, Michael Francis started Francis Roses on a few acres in Maricopa County.

Today, nearly 75 percent of long-life garden rosebushes are grown in climate-friendly Arizona, with Francis Roses having the largest market share.  The company sells its early growth rosebushes to nurseries and other wholesalers through the U.S. and Europe.

Michael’s son Tyler now helms the company and was responsible for relocating the business to Eloy in Pinal County in a careful transition which began in December 2020.  Tyler Francis acknowledges that the move to Eloy after so many years in the West Valley was not without its challenges, given the variations in soil, water, and air.

There is also a difference in cultural farming practices and definitely a more rural setting..

“It made us better farmers due to needing to ensure best practices for growing a highly specialize horticulture crop in a new environment,” Francis told AZ Free News.

There are 37,000 types of registered roses worldwide, although many from before the 1970s are no longer commonly available. It is also extremely difficult for new varieties to come to market despite improved breeding efforts, according to Francis.

“Roses are quite hearty but like anything they are susceptible to weaknesses over time,” Francis said. “At Francis Roses, we’ve taken a very long approach to how we introduce a new variety.”

Francis pointed out there is a vast difference between the genetics of garden roses compared to roses grown to be sold as cut roses.  Specialty roses like those Francis Roses grows are a big economic engine with a small environmental footprint, with 400 acres of his roses generating the same revenue as 15,000 acres of cotton.

And Francis is cognizant of the challenges agri-businesses face, which is why he takes the position that the other commercial rosebush growers are not competitors. He looks at them instead as potential customers, an attitude he further developed during a recent stint as president of the Arizona Nursey Association.

Francis’ background in economics becomes obvious when he begins to talk about rosebushes, or “units” as he refers to them. He also recognizes the economic impact Francis Roses brings to the Eloy area and the future growth potential.

Which is one reason Francis is deeply committed to the company’s research and development efforts which have led to propriety methods of fertilizers and other products to help maintain moisture in soil. The company has also chosen to work with only the most respected rose breeders in the world.

It can take two years for a Francis Roses rosebush to grow just a few inches, and each will inspected several times before being shipped off to farms and nurseries across the globe. One such facility is co-owned by Francis Roses in Texas where the rosebushes grow bigger before being sold or distributed to retail clients such as Armstrong Garden Centers.

Francis Roses grows about 400 varieties of garden roses at any given time, and evaluates 400 to 600 more varieties for features such as color, disease resistance, and fragrance. It can harvest upward of eight million units annually, but giving life to some of the world’s most prized roses requires a lot of work, and workers.  

Some of those workers are fulltime employees with ag-related degrees, while the majority come to Arizona for several months at a time under H2A visas as temporary agricultural workers.

The state’s housing shortage, which is particularly acute in Pinal County, has  required Francis Roses to think outside the box to care for those workers. The company recently partnered with Clayton Homes to provide on-site housing, and Francis is looking at other options to make the jobs more appealing to the workers.  

“Without those workers we would not exist,” Francis said, adding that the company pays above average ag-business wages. “I am happy Francis Roses is able to provide high paying agriculture jobs in Arizona. The vitality and diversity of the state’s economy is important to me.”

In 2016, Francis Roses released its Miranda Lambert hybrid tea rose.  Royalties from sales of the specialty rose are donated to Lambert’s Mutt Nation for ending animal neglect.  The company has also recently developed a Julie Andrews tea rose.

FUN FACT: Most cut roses purchased from a florist for Valentine’s Day or Mother’s Day do not come from U.S. rose farms. Instead, they are imported from South America, particularly Ecuador and Columbia.

Pinal County Election Leaders Issue Plan to Fix About 63k Erroneous Ballots

Pinal County Election Leaders Issue Plan to Fix About 63k Erroneous Ballots

By Corinne Murdock |

During a special session on Tuesday, the Pinal County Board of Supervisors approved a plan to fix incorrect early ballots mailed to about 63,000 voters last week. The ballots were missing city and town contests from seven municipalities: Casa Grande, Eloy, Mammoth, Maricopa, and Superior, along with the Pinal County portions of Apache Junction and Queen Creek.

Pinal County agreed with the secretary of state’s office to send supplemental ballots, or “Municipal Only” ballots, to all voters in the seven municipalities. However, those voters must also use their original ballot for all federal, state, and legislative contests — the supplemental ballots will only account for the races absent from the original, erroneous ballots. 

The county will also have in-person voting at Election Day polling sites for municipal contests in the seven impacted cities and towns. As for voters with ballots including races outside their jurisdiction, the county assured reporters that the election tabulation system would invalidate and not count them. 

As the Arizona Daily Independent noted, Elections Director David Frisk acknowledged that the county officials bore full responsibility, namely himself. 

“Due to human errors made by myself and staff under my direct supervision, ballots were produced and mailed to voters within seven municipalities without the appropriate local races and measures,” said Frisk. “I missed the crucial step of ensuring that each ballot style produced had appropriate races on it […] It was my mistake.”

READ PINAL COUNTY’S PLAN HERE

The plan comes after AZ Free News reported about one Pinal County resident — attorney general candidate Tiffany Shedd — who petitioned her election officials repeatedly about address errors on her and her family’s voter ID cards. Several weeks before the county mailed the 63,000 erroneous ballots, a deputy county attorney informed Shedd — after alleged hostility from the recorder’s office — that she could no longer contact election officials about her issue.

“Our driver’s licenses don’t match our voter ID cards and it was unacceptable to me that any elections official thought it was okay that we might be forced to cast a provisional ballot,” remarked Shedd at the time. “It is a huge problem to receive a ballot for an election that we are not qualified to vote in, and to be denied the opportunity to vote in your own city’s elections. Is it any wonder people are questioning whether our elections are free and fair?”

Shedd also reported that her son received a ballot including a city council race, despite living outside city limits. This was one issue that affected thousands of other Pinal County voters. 

Shedd wondered how many other residents’ concerns were dismissed by the county. 

Corinne Murdock is a reporter for AZ Free News. Follow her latest on Twitter, or email tips to corinne@azfreenews.com.

Arizona Cities Are Sitting on a Mountain of Cash—So Why Are They Opposing Tax Cuts?

Arizona Cities Are Sitting on a Mountain of Cash—So Why Are They Opposing Tax Cuts?

By the Free Enterprise Club |

The Arizona state coffers are running over with cash. The state is set to receive $12B in federal recovery funds, more than the entire annual state budget. On top of that, forecasting by the Joint Legislative Budget Committee projects by 2024 the state will have a $6.4B cash balance with $1.5B in ongoing revenues. Republicans in the Legislature and Governor Ducey are looking to return the record high, multi-billion-dollar state surplus to taxpayers by passing major tax cuts.

On the front lines to defeat these efforts—the cities—that are claiming major income tax reductions will significantly impact their bottom line. But it isn’t just the state sitting comfortably on a mountain of cash, the cities are too.

tax scorecard

In opposing the proposed tax cuts, cities are arguing that the package will result in a $225 million decrease in their shared revenue from income tax collections. Despite this estimate being seriously flawed, their projections are in reality insignificant.

Based on research from the Arizona Tax Research Association, we’ll look at 4 cities—urban, rural, small, and large—comparing their estimated “cut” from the tax package to their cash balances and scored against additional revenues generated from the 2019 Wayfair legislation, which permanently expanded the cities’ tax base.

Chandler

The city of Chandler has a budget of just under $317 million in general fund expenditures for FY2021, leaving nearly $135 million in the general fund.

So far in FY2021, the city has collected close to $3.6 million in new, local TPT revenue and $1.2 million in state shared TPT collections by remote sellers. Taking the average from the 8 months of collections so far in FY2021, this would result in just over $7 million annually.

The estimate of Chandler’s decrease in shared revenue? Just over $10 million.

With a cash balance of $135 million, $7 million in new revenue from Wayfair, Prop 207 revenue, and nearly $36 million in Covid cash from the latest package, residents of Chandler need not worry about their city providing a high level of service.

Their estimated “cut” represents a 0.67% decrease in Chandler’s general fund when scored against new ongoing tax revenues.

Flagstaff

The city of Flagstaff budgeted $81.7 million in general fund expenditures for FY2021, leaving the city with a cash balance of over $33 million.

From Wayfair, Flagstaff has already collected $1.3 million from remote sellers and their estimated state share is $340,000. Averaged out this is just under $2.5 million in new annual revenue. Flagstaff has also received $15.2 million in new Covid cash.

The estimated “cut” from income tax reductions? $2.9 million. This represents a mere 0.36% decrease in the general fund when scored against new ongoing tax revenues…

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