As tourism flourishes in the Verde Valley, spurring commercial and housing developments, UniSource Energy Services has kept pace with the growth by expanding our natural gas service to homes and businesses.
Known as the heart of Arizona wine country, the area is home to more than two dozen wineries – three of which have bottling facilities – and a smattering of breweries that produce craft beer and mead. Recently designated as an American Viticulture Area, the area bottles more wine than any other township in Arizona.
“We have a lot to offer and people are discovering this little gem in the valley,” said Tricia Lewis, Tourism and Economic Development Director for the City of Cottonwood. “The wineries, charm and quality of life here have been a huge draw for tourism, new residents and commercial development. Businesses see the potential here for growth.”
Lewis adds that the area also hosts some major industries. “Besides the wineries, we have hospitality, retail, restaurants and manufacturing that includes Wild Tonic – producers of the hard beverage Jun Kambucha – and Body Bliss, which produces high-end spa and personal care products.”
Located just 30 minutes south of Sedona, the City of Cottonwood serves as the commercial center of the Verde Valley, which is home to 40,000 residents. According to the 2020 Census, Cottonwood’s population grew by 12 percent over the past decade.
“There has been a lot of growth in Verde Valley, including in the relatively undeveloped area along the Highway 260 corridor between Cottonwood and Camp Verde,” said Duncan Jakes, District Manager of UniSource Gas’ Cottonwood Operations. “The Town of Camp Verde also is installing new water main line and sewer lines to support the growth. We are seeing many new housing and commercial developments. We’ve been very busy with projects.”
Over the past 18 months, UniSource crews have installed nearly 6,000 feet of new main gas lines and more than 10,000 feet of underground gas service lines to 389 homes and businesses.
Developments under construction include the Ambiente, a luxury resort in Sedona, and the housing developments of Hillside Vista Estates and Park Place in Sedona, Mesquite Hills in Cottonwood and Mountain Gate in Clarkdale. Merkin Vineyards also plans to open a new greenhouse, cellar, restaurant and tasting room in Cottonwood in 2023.
“Many of these projects require new main lines to be installed in addition to service lines from the main to the properties,” Jakes said. “After the lines are installed, service technicians then install pressure regulators, piping and a new meter at each new location.”
In the past several years, UniSource installed a new gas regulator station and updated several others, to supply gas at adequate and safe system pressures to the valley. “Investing in the modernization of our infrastructure improves safety and reliability,” he said.
Our company also is constructing a new 13,000 sq. ft. operations center for our gas operations in Cottonwood after leasing its current facility for 20 years. The facility is expected to be complete by the end of this year. The new $8.1 million facility was designed to meet the energy needs of nearly 22,000 customers over a 750-square mile service area, which includes Cottonwood, Clarkdale, Jerome, Sedona, Oak Creek and Camp Verde.
“Our 18 full-time UniSource employees take pride in supporting economic and residential growth to the people and business of the Verde Valley,” Jakes said. “Our new facility will serve as the heart of operations to ensure the safe and reliable delivery of natural gas.”