The Arizona Commerce Authority held its first meeting Sept. 23 to outline its future plans and establish five committees that will focus on economic growth in the areas of technology, aerospace, entrepreneurship, renewable energy and business retention.
Gov. Jan Brewer, who chairs the authority, also appointed five people to take charge of the committees: Craig Barrett, retired chairman and CEO of Intel, will lead the science and technology committee; Vicki Panhuise, a vice president at Honeywell, will lead the aerospace and defense committee; Pat Sullivan, CEO of Flypaper Studio, will lead the entrepreneurship committee; Michael Bidwell, president of the Arizona Cardinals, will lead the renewable energy committee; and Jerry Colangelo, partner at JDM Partners, will lead the business retention committee.
Brewer created the Commerce Authority over the summer through an executive order as the budget for the Arizona Department of Commerce dwindles. The goal is to replace the old government agency with an organization made up of business, political and academic leaders who will draft recommendations to attract businesses and foster economic growth.
“What we need is for the private sector to come along with government leadership so that we’re not all going in 15 different directions,” said Don Cardon, former director of the Commerce Department who now serves as the Commerce Authority’s temporary president and CEO.
During the meeting, Cardon stressed that the idea behind the Commerce Authority was not merely to re-brand the Commerce Department, and that its creation wasn’t political in nature.
Cardon said the board decided to focus on specific economic areas where global demand is expected to be the greatest. Groups of board members from the private sector will formulate business plans for each of the Commerce Authority’s core missions.
Members of the subcommittees have not been chosen from among the Commerce Authority’s 36 board members. During the meeting, the board members filled out cards to rank which subcommittee they would most like to participate in.
The Commerce Authority’s next meeting was scheduled for Nov. 16.
Cardon will be replaced as the president and CEO when a selection committee chooses a new leader for the Commerce Authority. Brewer appointed board members Cardon, Mo Stein, Jerry Fuentes and Michael Kennedy, along with Eileen Klein, her chief of staff, to the selection committee.
Klein called upon the board members to begin developing ideas for what they expect in a leader and who should fill that role.
“We will need to establish a more permanent leadership and someone who will stay regardless of who holds the political offices,” she said. “Some envision we bring someone in on contract.”
She also reminded the board that the Commerce Authority still needs to be authorized by the Legislature. A long term funding mechanism also must be identified.