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Arizona Commerce Authority gets new CEO

The Arizona Commerce Authority — the state’s economic development organization — is finally getting a new CEO to replace Don Cardon. The ACA is charged with creating jobs and boosting the state’s economy.

The Arizona Commerce Authority board voted unanimously Tuesday to have a board committee negotiate a contract with Sandra Watson, who was chief deputy to former CEO Cardon and has served as interim CEO since July.

Watson has made $218,000 annually as interim CEO. Cardon’s salary was $300,000.

The quasi-private authority took over economic development functions from the now-disbanded state Department of Commerce. The authority gets $35 million of state funding annually, including $25 million for grants to help attract, expand or retain businesses.

Cardon announced in January that he will return to running his businesses.

The authority’s board hired a search firm to help find a new CEO, but Gov. Jan Brewer said no other candidates emerged from that process as a finalist.

“We certainly interviewed and consulted with a lot of people but no one rose to the occasion,” said Brewer, who heads the authority’s board.

The board’s executive committee decided “that Sandra really stepped up in the interim and that she would serve us well as the ACA president moving forward,” the governor said.

Brewer won legislative approval of creation of the authority last year as part of legislation that also included business tax cuts.