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Booming economy brings jobs, a vibrant lifestyle, to Arizona

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Arizona’s economy is on a roll. Recent announcements from the East Valley communities of Chandler, Gilbert and Mesa, from downtown Phoenix, from the West Valley city of Goodyear and the southern Arizona city of Tucson have heralded companies making major new investments in the state. Even some rural communities such as Coolidge and Casa Grande along the I-10 corridor are attracting new manufacturing plants. These installations bring high-wage jobs, economic prosperity and more opportunity for all our citizens. Working with state and regional economic development agencies, cities and towns in Arizona are at the forefront of attracting this new investment.

Ken Strobeck

Ken Strobeck

In addition to the overall favorable tax and regulatory policies of the state championed by Gov. Doug Ducey, cities and towns have had foresight to install the proper infrastructure that attracts business to the state. In addition to the traditional services – streets, water and safe communities – there are other important factors that include public transportation, cultural activities and attractions, educational institutions and great places to eat and socialize. Today’s workforce is seeking more than just a 9-5 job – they want an active, vibrant lifestyle and their paycheck.

This key combination of elements is evident in each of these regions, and particularly in downtown Phoenix. In just a few years, new business and higher education centers have emerged downtown along with many more housing and entertainment options and a soon-to-be-completed new grocery outlet in the center of the city. In cities across the state, the downtown area no longer goes dark after 5 p.m., but is a place where people live, work and socialize throughout the day.

It takes a great partnership of state and local government along with the private sector to make all these projects come together and raise the profile of Arizona on the national stage. The visionary leadership of cities and towns, and the cooperation they have developed in regional economic development, have helped raise the profile of Arizona nationally as a great place to locate or expand a business.

But, our job is not finished. We still face major challenges across the state in our highway system. While freeways in the Valley are above average thanks to the taxpayers of Maricopa County and the Prop. 400 funds, freeways in many other areas of the state have suffered for years from declining maintenance and failure to keep up adequate capacity. It’s even more distressing in rural parts of the state.

Fortunately, that situation is starting to turn around with the end of sweeps from the Highway User Revenue Fund (HURF) and an additional investment in highways by the 2019 Legislature, but we have a major backlog to work on.

We also must be above average when it comes to air and rail access. Arizona does not have ocean-front property and is somewhat isolated when it comes to the biggest consumer markets in the country. We depend on our West Coast customers, particularly California, and our largest trading partner, Mexico, for economic vitality. And, we also have a very high reliance on defense industries, both in terms of manufacturing and active duty personnel.

The good news is that our economy is strong and appears to be on a consistent upward path. But, we have strong competition elsewhere.

Other states have greater incentives and broader economic development tools to entice employers. We need to freshen and upgrade our portfolio while being consistent with our state constitutional values. That includes reforms to our tax and education systems, completing the full package of lifestyle benefits for businesses and their employees.

Arizona is a great and growing state and the future is bright. Cities and towns are crucial to the economic success of our state, and we look forward to working with all our partners to achieve even greater goals.

2 comments

  1. Zachary S Brooks

    Arizona does not equal Maricopa County and full employment of low wage jobs does not translate into all good for everyone. It is a privilege to write about the “growth in the economy” when you’re benefitting from it but you are overlooking how top heavy the gains are.

  2. John Huppenthal

    “Arizona does not equal Maricopa County.”

    In 2018, Arizona added 81,000 jobs.

    In 2018, Maricopa County added population of 103,000, the equivalent of a good sized city in one year.

    By contrast, Pima County added 17,000. Why the massive difference? Tucson has about 2,000 lane miles of roads and over 80,000 miles of cracks. Many of those cracks have expanded to crevasses and potholes. Its a mess. In surveys, less than 10% of residents rate the quality of Tucson city services as excellent. By comparison, in Gilbert, over 50% rate the quality of city government excellent.

    In public opinion surveys, only 10% of parents rated it an excellent place to raise a child.

    The city coordinates with a massive school district to discourage the competition in terms of charter schools. Despite this, the Tucson Unified School district is being peeled like a banana, losing over 500 students per year, the equivalent of an entire elementary school, over 19,000 students since 2000.

    They lack a fundamental understanding of what they need to do to be competitive economically as a city and academically as a school district.

    Both Tucson and TUSD are being run as looting conspiracy in which a pile of loot of hundreds of millions of dollars are dealt out to interest groups on the basis of political power.

    Neither institution tracks excellence and works every day to improve it, with perhaps the exception of the Tucson police force.

    The consequence of low value and high taxes is very low competitiveness.

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