The most difficult time to accept a new challenge and embrace change is when things are going well.
At the start of a new decade, people who live in Arizona have every reason to be pleased – 2020 looks a lot better than 2010 did. Leaders in government and business have worked hard to manage through the challenges that came with the Great Recession and in its aftermath. The pathway has been difficult and they have every right to feel proud of what they have done and what Arizona has to offer.
As tempting as it might be and as much as we may feel we’ve earned it, now is not the time to breathe a sigh of relief and relax. Competitive forces are fiercer than ever.
Arizona has climbed out of a hole and it is standing on stable ground. That is encouraging and important given the rapid advance of technology and its dramatic impact on businesses, the workplace and the kinds of jobs that will be needed – along with jobs that will disappear.
Arizona has the opportunity to build on its current economic health and to make sure the state economy never suffers again the way it did in the decade following the Great Recession. It means moving the Arizona economy from being fragile and highly vulnerable in times of volatility, to one that is resilient that thrives and grows when exposed to uncertainty, disorder and stress. The Arizona Board of Regents have wisely offered a proposal for public investment in the FY 2021 budget that signals the way forward.
What ABOR has proposed is a strategic investment with a focus at all three state universities on areas that will yield a positive return on investment for taxpayers with an emphasis on high value, high wage industries that are central to the New Economy. It is a focus designed to advance more new business location and expansion opportunities and additional small business development. It is accomplished by using universities to partner with industry to produce a pipeline of talent and an environment of research, discovery and entrepreneurial activity.
At Arizona State University, that means an emphasis on engineering and technology. For those of us at the university, it means accepting the assignment to educate and graduate more students, to find new and innovative ways to partner with the private sector, to produce knowledge and discovery and to push it into the marketplace, and to provide the workforce needed for Arizona businesses of all shapes and sizes.
Because as well as the state of Arizona has done by reducing regulation, tax burdens and being welcoming and in spite of the fact that our quality of life is second to none and that barriers to entry are few, we still see data that tells us we are not expanding economically at the rate of our competition in the region. Personal economic expansion is still greater in states like Colorado and Oregon – and that’s not what we want.
Arizona still must develop the self-generating, knowledge-driven economic center where we are creating from whole cloth new knowledge enterprises that produce thousands of scientists, engineers and designers who make things happen. Not trends we capitalize on, but new things we create to sustain the economy of the future.
The foundational technologies we operate under today will all be replaced. The economy will continue to churn. Think back to 1990 – just 30 years ago. Our present economy looks nothing like that. Our biggest and most important companies were born, grown and totally transformed in that period of time. Think, Apple. Think, Google. Think, Amazon.
This isn’t going to stop. It’s going to happen even faster. Arizona institutions like Intel know this is coming. They know they must adapt, or die.
Arizona needs to be at the leading edge of economic transformation. We are well positioned to do so, but not if we are content with recovery and where we are today.
The Board of Regents proposal calls for ASU, working with the private sector, to lead the emergence of the greatest engineering school ever built, at scale with diversity and creativity, planting the seedlings for new industries and new opportunities.
It is an investment in laying seed for the New Economy by doing three things:
– Continuing to operate America’s most innovative university built on access and quality, welcoming all those at every stage of life who want an education.
– Building the greatest engineering school in the world – the largest, the most creative, the most innovative; and,
– Creating new Science and Technology Centers that will accelerate our opportunities to do research, make discoveries, push ideas into the marketplace advancing the businesses that already exist and spinning off new ones, ready to make their mark.
We are asking for this investment from the state. We accept the assignment. And we will deliver.
— This is the first in a three-part series from ASU President Michael M. Crow about the Arizona Board of Regents New Economy Initiative, a public investment proposal for the state’s FY 2021 budget.