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GPEC pursuing creative solutions to regional challenges

Sharon Wolcott, mayor, Surprise

Sharon Wolcott, mayor, Surprise

While a lot of things have changed since I entered public service 20 years ago, the American people still elect representatives for the same reason. Just like the first office I was ever elected to — and every office I’ve held in between — the people of Surprise elected me to help improve their lives. My job, pure and simple, is to make this community a better place to live and work, by making it easier for the people of Surprise to support their families, put a roof over their heads, educate and care for their children, and access health care.

In a perfect world, this would be an easy task. Well-paying jobs would be widely available, high-quality housing would be affordable to all, public schools would be adequately funded and provide a top-notch education for every student, and proper health care would be accessible to anyone who needs it.

Unfortunately, that is not the world we live in. The reality is that people are having a hard time finding good jobs, making ends meet, and paying for the basic necessities like housing, education and health care. And while I work day in and day out to fix these problems for the people of Surprise, they are too complex to be solved by the government alone.

Addressing these tricky issues requires an “all hands on deck” approach. To really make a difference, we have to put our heads together with members of the community, business leaders and the government to come up with creative, multi-faceted solutions.

That is what we are doing at the Greater Phoenix Economic Council, where I serve as a member of the board. We are a private-public partnership representing 23 communities in the Maricopa County area and more than 160 private investors. Our purpose is to attract businesses to the area to grow our economy, create jobs, and make Maricopa County a better place to live, by working on behalf of businesses looking to relocate and expand.

And we are not in this alone. After the 2008 financial crisis, the Obama administration made it a top priority to stimulate economic growth and create jobs. The most influential leaders in America — from the White House to the departments of State and Commerce — have become advocates on behalf of U.S. companies to create jobs here at home.

Hillary Clinton dedicates a chapter of her newly released book, “Hard Choices,” to her role as an advocate for American businesses while she served as secretary of state, writing, “I was determined to do everything I could to help American businesses and workers seize more of the legitimate opportunities already available.” As she explains in the chapter, “During my travels I often made a pitch for an American business or product, like GE in Algeria. For example, in October 2009, I visited the Boeing Design Center in Moscow because Boeing had been trying to secure a contract for new planes with the Russians. I made the case that Boeing’s jets set the global gold standard, and, after I left, our embassy kept at it. In 2010, the Russians agreed to buy fifty 737s, for almost $4 billion, which translated into thousands of American jobs. And our efforts weren’t just on behalf of big companies like Boeing or GE — we also advocated for small and medium-sized businesses across our country trying to go global.”

The International Trade Administration’s Advocacy Center, part of the Department of Commerce, also serves as an advocate for American businesses. Last August, the Advocacy Center helped Boeing win a $1.6 billion contract with South Korea to sell them 36 Apache helicopters made right here in the Phoenix area in nearby Mesa. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker recently visited the Boeing facility in Mesa to see this success story for herself.

In the Phoenix area, these efforts have been vital to our economy, with Boeing employing so many of our friends and neighbors. The Mesa facility alone employs 4,700 people.

This type of collaboration between the government and the private sector has paid off for the people of Arizona. Here in Surprise, we have become a recognizable presence at the state Capitol and a voice on economic development here at home, in the region and even in Washington D.C., thanks in part to Secretary Clinton and Secretary Pritzker and the work they have done on behalf of one of the area’s largest employers. Together, we are helping improve the lives of the people of Surprise — just as I was elected to do — as well as people across the state and this great nation.

— Sharon Wolcott is mayor of the city of Surprise.

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