Desert Discovery Center poised to boost Scottsdale businesses

Although my post at the Scottsdale Area Chamber of Commerce is new, my Scottsdale roots run deep. I came to Arizona in 1979 to complete my master’s degree at ASU.

Mark Hiegel

Mark Hiegel

I decided to stay and got my first job that next year. Not long ago, I read an article that said “you know you’re a Scottsdale native if you remember Herb Drinkwater, the old Scottsdale Stadium and the creation of the McDowell Sonoran Preserve.” I guess I’d be characterized as a native then, because I remember all of these vividly.

I met Herb in 1993, I sold programs in the stadium as a Scottsdale Charro throughout the ‘90s and beyond. This includes hearing about the inspiring story of how the Preserve was created by a grassroots group of citizens and later supported by Scottsdale voters who wisely had the foresight to ensure this treasure remained one they could share with future generations, thus creating the nation’s largest urban preserve.

The Scottsdale Area Chamber of Commerce fully supported the Preserve and now, more than 20 years later, we endorse the full vision coming to fruition with the creation of a Desert Discovery Center at the Gateway to the McDowell Sonoran Preserve. This center will provide authentic exhibits, programs and activities that will immerse residents, school children and visitors in our mountain and desert environment and will become a focal point, worldwide, for education, research and dialogue about the ways in which humans interact with and in arid environments such as ours.

A nonprofit group, the Desert Discovery Center Scottsdale, has formed to see this is done the right way. They have amassed an impressive group of business and tourism leaders, corporations and foundations in support of seeing this project completed. As a lifetime Charro, I was delighted to see the DDCS has earned their thumbs-up, as well as a grant to advance the project. It’s good to see not only the business community, but community groups like this, in support of a project that can only ensure excellence for Scottsdale.

How will the Desert Discovery Center benefit business? In many ways.

The most obvious is with tourism. You’ve likely heard of eco-tourism. The DDC will be a model, built green on a modest footprint, sharing with the world how Scottsdale is a model for living in harmony with the desert environment. Additionally, studies have shown that venues like this are economic engines. Those who seek cultural attractions also want to soak up the local flavor of a destination. They stay longer and spend more money than other types of tourists. I don’t have to spell out what that means to the business community.

In addition, businesses always benefit from things that enhance quality of life for families and school children. And, the type of important global research that Arizona State University will contribute by its involvement also adds to Scottsdale’s dossier as a premier place to locate a business.

As a citizen, I’m equally enthused about the Desert Discovery Center. I look forward to experiencing the DDC myself and to sharing it with my own friends and family members, as well as out-of-town guests. I believe the Desert Discovery Center will offer a wide range of experiences and I’m excited about what this will mean for our K-12 students as we bring their desert and mountain home to life, encouraging them to learn and explore their own unique ecosystem. The vision is that visitors — both tourists and residents — will leave the Desert Discovery Center inspired to go out and make a difference. I’m confident it will do just that.

Recently, I was asked to serve on a committee tasked with re-branding Arizona. Obviously, I’m excited for Scottsdale to be an integral part of that. And, I’m proud that projects such as the Desert Discovery Center will make a mark in terms of the conservation and sustainability that should become part of Arizona’s signature brand.

The time is right for the Desert Discovery Center for so many reasons. I can’t wait to see what unfolds over the next few years and how this unparalleled amenity will further put the stamp of excellence on Scottsdale now and in the future.

Editor’s note: Mr. Hiegel is president and CEO of the Scottsdale Area Chamber of Commerce

Editor's Note: Mr Hiegel is a resident of Scottsdale, a Charro and a longtime community advocate

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