Give us a look ahead at Greater Phoenix’s major industries.
The emergence of solar and renewable energy has been, and will continue to be, a big opportunity for us. We need to learn, as a market, how to be involved in new technology initiatives. There are going to be wins, losses and volatility, but the renewable space is going to continue to grow.
From January to November 2010, 1,350 jobs and $153 million in capital investment have been created. Renewable energy projects now make up about 28 percent of the companies looking at our region.
In addition to the renewable energy industry, health care, life sciences and information communication technology will expand next year. All of this is plagued by inconsistency in the capital markets. There is not enough private equity and there is no real IPO (initial public offering) market. Whenever you are building a new technology, it is really important that capital markets are responsive.
What kinds of jobs does GPEC look to attract and grow in Greater Phoenix?
We’re probably having the best year for attracting engineers and professional jobs that GPEC has ever had as an organization. These quality jobs are fueled by the fact that renewable energy is the new technology space.
GPEC is performing at a high level, even though the country is still in a recession. We have already driven 4,400 jobs to Greater Phoenix from July to October 2010. Of those jobs, 66 percent provide high wages. We want to see even more high-quality jobs this year. Hopefully, we will continue to drive regional headquarters, and professional services and technology jobs in the region.
GPEC talks a lot about competitiveness. Why is this important, and what specifically is GPEC doing to make the region more competitive?
For a long time, GPEC has focused efforts on increasing the region’s competitiveness. It’s absolutely critical because every major investment is analyzed by people with very astute backgrounds for its financial implications, talent and long-term viability. The most common differentiating point for a market is its competitive position. We look at the cost of doing business, the speed of doing business, ability to attract talent and access to capital.
GPEC has several initiatives to push Greater Phoenix into more globally competitive circles. The region — historically — has relied on retail, construction and real estate sectors to our own detriment. We have a high-quality job formula. Arizona will increase its competitive position with GPEC’s proposal to drive large company expansions, increasing our local, talented work force, and improving our tax climate. Working on job creation legislation with Tucson Regional Economic Opportunities (TREO), rural partners, the Arizona Commerce Authority and chamber partners is going to be really important this year. GPEC also works closely with the Arizona Chamber of Commerce, Arizona Small Business Association, Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce, Greater Phoenix Leadership, and our communities and mayors.
It wasn’t that long ago, just four years ago, that Arizona was ranked No. 1 in the country for job growth. Now, we have fallen to almost last in the country — 48th place. We need to understand how to improve the environment for business and compete in new technologies and industries. That is going to make the difference for Greater Phoenix as it recovers from the housing slump and shifts the job base away from the real estate industry to export industries.