The Arizona Comeback in Growth Industries

31 Dec, 2012

By: Governor Janice K. Brewer

The winds of change are sweeping across the Arizona desert. A state once defined by growth-dependent industries such as real estate and retail is now more than ever focused on creating a diversified, stable economic base. This change is bringing major corporations to the southwest and is quickly turning Arizona into one of the hottest places in the world for companies to do business.

Arizona is known for golf and sunshine — traditionally considered a destination location. But when the Great Recession hit, Arizona took the brunt. Its primary growth industries — construction and housing — essentially evaporated. But Arizona's Governor Jan Brewer took a proactive approach to solving the state's economic crisis — committed to advancing Arizona’s economy and recovery. With the support of the state's elected leaders, Governor Brewer led the Arizona Comeback — completely transforming the way the state approached economic development.

Governor Brewer's strategy engaged some of the best and brightest business leadership in Arizona from both the public and private sectors. The result was the creation of the Arizona Commerce Authority (ACA), Arizona's leading economic development organization. The ACA is governed by an impressive Board of Directors made up of the state's top elected leaders, including the Governor, Speaker of the House and Senate President, as well as some of the most successful private business minds, including sports mogul and businessman Jerry Colangelo. This move away from a strictly government department toward a public-private approach allows Arizona to focus on business creation, expansion and attraction from a more corporate-minded perspective.

In order to ensure that Arizona's comeback was a strong one, Governor Brewer also led an effort to enhance the state's competitiveness — improving its business operating environment to one of the best in the country. The resurgence required re-thinking areas of Arizona's tax structure that unduly burdened employers, particularly in industries such as manufacturing that require large capital investments. Across the board, the state has enacted more competitive tax policies for businesses, including reductions in commercial property taxes, corporate income taxes and capital gains taxes.

Arizona offers new resources to encourage the growth of innovative companies and creation of quality jobs. The Arizona Competitiveness Package – the 2011 legislation that created the ACA – arms the state with these aggressive economic development tools, significant resources for job creation opportunities, and a commitment to the business community that Arizona helps companies grow and succeed.

Additionally, this year Governor Brewer signed into law new measures that encourage investment in small businesses, aid start-up companies and provide significant new incentives to companies that bring corporate headquarters to the state.

To create a diversified, stable economic base, the ACA focuses on creating, growing and attracting businesses in high-growth sectors such as aerospace and defense, semiconductors, optics/photonics, bioscience, renewable energy, and small business and entrepreneurship. Arizona is tapping into the same natural resources that once drove its economic base, but it's also channeling those efforts to a more stable, long-term foundation for growth.

A critical component to a stable, sustainable economy is educating, training and working directly with the state's workforce. Hiring from a pool of top talent is critical to any company, and Arizona is ripe with talent. Our state is home to the largest public university campus in the country, Arizona State University, as well as the largest community college system — Maricopa Community Colleges. The state is committed to growing the skill base of Arizona's up-and-coming workforce, as well as facilitating entry into the job market. Additionally, the ACA regularly meets one-on-one with private industry to understand changing workforce needs, share those needs with educators around the state, and encourage the university and community college systems to modify training to better prepare students entering Arizona's job market.

The results? Arizona's model is working. Startups are thriving. Arizona-based businesses are growing. Record numbers of companies are expanding or relocating to Arizona. Corporations are selecting Arizona over its closest competitors. Arizona's business climate is now recognized as one of the top ten in the country. The state is a leader in job growth. The Kauffman Foundation has ranked Arizona as the "number one" state in the country for entrepreneurs to start and operate a business. The state is ranked "number two" for the quality and availability of its workforce and is consistently in the top three among alternative energy leaders.

In Arizona, the golf and sunshine remain. But because of forward-thinking leadership, Arizona's economy is based more on a sustainable model —with a focus on next-generation advances, cutting-edge innovation, and key research and development centers. This quality growth will create long-term economic vitality, making Arizona even more attractive and responsive to entrepreneurs looking to launch a business, Arizona-based businesses looking to grow, and corporations considering expansion and relocation.