Few anticipated the political world we inhabit in 2017. Our leaders in Washington, D.C., are determining the most effective ways to advocate for Arizona and get things accomplished under the new Trump administration. Fortunately, here at home, Gov. Doug Ducey and myriad pro-business lawmakers are our strong partners in increasing growth, strengthening competitiveness and continuing the success of Arizona’s business community.
Our priorities for the 2017 legislative session include growing Arizona’s workforce talent pipeline, continuing to move the needle on improving our K-12 and higher education systems and reforming the initiative process, which currently enables out-of-state interests to treat our state as a test bed for ill-conceived proposals.
The chamber’s economic development team along with the city of Phoenix, Maricopa County and the Arizona Commerce Authority – partners in our Phoenix Forward collaborative economic development initiative – visited more than 900 businesses last year and determined that the top priority for these employers is developing and maintaining access to a qualified workforce.
The vast majority of our efforts in this area starting last year and through this year are dedicated to building this talent pipeline in the construction, financial services, cybersecurity, compliance and risk management and health care sectors.
Key to this work is bolstering our state’s education system at every level, from kindergarten through college.
The teachers, families and education and business advocates who coalesced last year to ensure the passage of Proposition 123 deserve our whole-hearted thanks. The successful measure to bring $3.5 billion in new money to Arizona K-12 schools topped Governor Ducey’s list of accomplishments in 2016.
I applaud the governor’s dedication to keep education a centerpiece of his administration with pledges during his 2017 State of the State address to call for school investment above inflationary increases each year; permanently increase teacher salaries beyond those afforded by local overrides and Prop. 123 and create an Arizona Teachers Academy that pays for teachers’ education, allowing them to graduate debt-free with a job waiting.
Governor Ducey also pledged to continue investments in career and technical education (CTE) and to reform the teacher certification process to remove “outdated bureaucratic hoops” and continue removing regulatory barriers to economic growth.
Next, we must apply efforts toward supporting higher education however possible.
Although it goes without saying that educational institutions provide both the general and specialized training that workers need to fill the jobs being offered by sectors such as bioscience and cybersecurity, that isn’t the only reason why we focus on strengthening Arizona education.
The state of education also matters to businesses that aren’t here now, but could be soon.
We are in fierce competition with many other states including Colorado, Texas and Utah for business expansion. Our great climate, endless recreational opportunities, expanding transportation system and business-friendly elected officials and regulatory environment are assets that make Arizona attractive to CEOs looking to bring businesses here. A major piece of the quality-of-life equation for their employees is the strength of the school system. Adequately funding our education system at all levels allows us to add “strong education system” to our scorecard.
These are just a few of the issues for which we will advocate this year at the state level. But our efforts on behalf of the business community don’t end there. Our public affairs team monitors action at the state Capitol on a daily basis during session to ensure that anytime an issue that affects business is being considered, lawmakers and the governor know exactly where the business community stands. We are your voice.
I invite all businesses, organizations and governments at all levels to join the chamber in promoting Arizona at each opportunity. It is our job not only to continue to keep our state great, but also highlight all the amazing assets the Grand Canyon State offers to those who visit, work, play or reside here.
Todd Sanders is president & CEO of the Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce.
The views expressed in guest commentaries are those of the author and are not the views of the Arizona Capitol Times.