Changes in travel options, the loss of a mainstay in Flagstaff and openings of new options in the city highlighted the year in business news. Here’s a look at 10 of the most popular and impactful stories from 2018.
SEARS CLOSES FLAGSTAFF LOCATION
On Aug. 23, it was announced that the Sears Holding Corporation would be closing its Flagstaff mall location, along with 45 other of its Sears and Kmart stores across the U.S. An spokesperson for the company said the company was strengthening their capital position and focusing on their best stores, of which Flagstaff was not one of.
After a week of clearance sales, the Flagstaff Sears closed, along with the north entrance of the mall that it housed. Many local employees had little time to look elsewhere for jobs. The 66,098-square-foot lot remains empty, with no plans for what’s to come next public at this time. Sears had owned the land since 1978 and opened as an anchor business when the rest of the mall opened in 1980.
BELLEMONT PAPER FACTORY CLOSURE
In September, it was announced that an Essity paper products plant in Bellemont will be shutting its doors in the summer of 2019, leading to the loss of as many as 116 jobs. The factory has been in Bellemont since 2001. Amy Bellcourt, the vice president of communications at Essity, said the decision was purely a financial one. The factory represented one of the last paper product manufacturers in the Flagstaff area, which once had as many as five.
FUTURE AFTER PROP 418 FAILS
Flagstaff business owners had mixed reactions after 55 percent of voters decided to uphold the minimum wage increase by voting no on Prop 418 in November. In a survey conducted by the Greater Flagstaff Chamber of Commerce, 24 businesses said that they would be laying off employees.
Some restaurant owners said they were considering not giving tip money to servers when the full $15.50 wage takes effect. Altitudes Bar and Grill debated between that and not having servers at all, but instead having customers come up to the bar to get their food when it is ready.
MINIMUM WAGE VIOLATIONS
The Office of Labor Standards was established to enforce the minimum wage law and investigate complaints after the passage of Proposition 414, which first increased Flagstaff’s minimum wage.
In the first six months, the office received 17 complaints, five of which required a further investigation from the office. There were four complaints against hotels and three against restaurants. Two hotel owners claimed they were unaware Flagstaff’s minimum wage had increased to $10.50 in 2017, and continued to pay minimum wage workers $10 per hour like the rest of the state.
The OLS is yet to reach an agreement to compensate minimum wage workers who were not paid for their time at a haunted house on Fourth Street during Halloween 2017. Local charities that were promised profits from the sales also did not receive anything.
AIRPORT EXPANDS OPTIONS
In August, the Flagstaff Pulliam Airport reported that they would begin twice-daily flights to Denver starting March 31, 2019. The United Airlines partnership will allow visitors from Denver to be able to come straight to Flagstaff, as opposed to being re-routed through Phoenix. In October, the airport announced that it would be expanding its seasonal route to Dallas-Ft. Worth to also become a twice-daily route. The American Airlines flights to Dallas will begin April 2, 2019.
POSSIBLE AMTRAK CHANGES
Amtrak announced this spring that it planned on changing its Southwest Chief route, which runs through Flagstaff. The trains on the route, which travel from Los Angeles to Chicago, would not run between Albuquerque and Dodge City. Instead, buses would run between the New Mexico and Kansas destinations.
If this were to take affect, it could drastically reduce the amount of people that take the Southwest Chief route. Therefore, Flagstaff could see far fewer people coming into the city via the train. In May, Flagstaff Mayor Coral Evans sent a letter to the CEO of Amtrak explaining the negative impact this would have on Flagstaff. While nothing has been passed yet, changes to the Southwest Chief route could still take place in the future.