[SUNDAY FEATURE] I left Pinal County and now look

“Anti-Cheney” Rally at Wyoming Capitol January 28, 2021./Wyoming Tribune

By Phil Riske | Senior Reporter/Writer

Hundreds gathered last week for Rep. Matt Gaetz’ “Anti-Cheney” rally on the steps the Wyoming Capitol in Cheyenne that I went up and down thousands of times covering state politics.

But the rally did not so much remind me of Wyoming politics as it did my goals at the time: Get the hell away from Rocky Mountain winters and own a radio station.

The first goal was reached in 1973 when I went to a U.S. Senate job, and in 1979 I became managing partner of KSAA-FM “Casa 105” in Casa Grande, Ariz.

The day we moved in, it was 113 degrees.

My new hometown, population 15,000 at the time, was a dusty cotton farming community in Pinal County, which had 90,000 residents spread out over 5,400 square miles.

The Francisco Grande resort — the “Franny Granny” we called it — was the training home for the San Francisco Giants baseball team and brought needed tourism dollars in the spring.

“Franny Granny”

Most Casa Grande residents, it seemed were native and politically parochial. The city did not, for whatever reasons, welcome new blood to town. This is not to say I and my radio staff didn’t make good personal, business and political friendships, but the city’s closeness at the time and the recession of the early 1980s dashed any hopes of making the radio station a success.

Espousing the need for Casa Grande to look to the future with more of an open mind toward new development and new people, I came 40 votes short of to being elected to the city council.

When I left, I was a member of the Hoemako Hospital board, and we had just completed a partnership with St. Luke’s Hospital in Phoenix to build a new medical center.

Now Look

Today, and because of COVID-19, Banner Casa Grande Medical Center’s ICU has been operating at up to 170% of capacity, hospital CEO Brian Kellar said.

Pinal County is the site of several recent and significant auto and related manufacturing jobs. One of the biggest prizes is the new factory for Nikola Motors, a private Phoenix-based company that will start manufacturing zero-emission heavy trucks and other types of vehicles, The Arizona Republic reported. 

Nikola was said to have booked $14 billion worth of orders for its electric and hydrogen-fueled big rigs, from customers including Anheuser-Busch and US Xpress.

Another factory going up this year, to the west in Casa Grande, will produce luxury electric vehicles made by Lucid Motors.

I am extremely pleased and proud of the maturation of Casa Grande and Pinal County, as is Rose Law Group, which was given the opportunity to be a major player in growth projects.

I don’t recognize my first Arizona home anymore when I visit: Malls, housing developments, astute political leadership, diversity and a sense of even greater potential.It does, however, lack something as important: a radio station dedicated to Casa Grande and Pinal County news and business.

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