Money Tree, WEB

Economic development groups are bullish on Arizona

They are our sales representatives, those intrepid souls knocking on doors in California, China, Germany and New York. They are the smiling faces standing behind CEOs, mayors and the governor when a new business arrival is announced. They are the economic development organizations of Arizona.
It’s an alphabet soup of agencies, but they are working for one goal – if it’s good for one location in Arizona, it’s good for all of Arizona. Cities are not competing with each other, they are now a state competing against 49 others.
“People ask me if Tucson is competing with Phoenix for businesses,” points out Joe Snell, president and CEO of Tucson Regional Economy Opportunities (TREO). “I tell them, no, we are not. Tucson is a submarket of Phoenix. We’re both part of the Sun Corridor.”
The big guns in business attraction work together. TREO, the Arizona Commerce Authority (ACA) and Greater Phoenix Economic Council (GPEC) are collecting frequent flyer miles talking with businesses about doing business in Arizona.
Earlier in the summer, GPEC CEO Barry Broome said Arizona could expect a corporate headquarters relocation. “It’s getting closer to reality,” confirms Angela Talbot, GPEC vice president of business development. “Moving a headquarters is not like opening a satellite office; there is a lot involved.”
While trips to Germany and China make news for the organizations, the heavy action is next door.
“We’re doing a lot of direct recruiting,” says Talbot. “[Arizona] Commerce has offices in California and we’re with them talking to site selection consultants, brokers and heavily prospecting.”
What’s piquing interest among California companies is that Arizona has the workforce for business success and low costs of doing business. “Some California companies tell me they can no longer make an effective profit there,” she says.
Teri Drew looks at the regional picture for the Northern Arizona Council of Governments (NACOG). The immediate past AAED president, she serves as NACOG’s regional director and is responsible for economic development. “We’re encouraging new business and supporting business expansion in our 24 communities,” she says. “We’re heavily invested in supporting entrepreneurship with business incubators and assistance centers.”
NACOG’s efforts reflect its rural membership and the multitude of “home-preneurs” in its area. A flagship project ventured with the Northern Arizona Center for Entrepreneurship and Technology created the Flagstaff “Innovation Mesa.” Drew’s focus for NACOG reaches well into rural northern Arizona. Efforts are centered on growing the business infrastructure to make the area more appealing to recruitment efforts.
In southeastern Arizona, major efforts come out of the Sierra Vista Economic Development Foundation (SVEDF). Led by CEO Mignonne Hollis, the SVEDF uses its existing assets in aerospace and defense, healthcare and cyber security to draw smaller businesses that find synergy in the industries based there.
“Fort Huachuca gives us something to leverage,” says Hollis. “We are also an area with a lot of assets for Unmanned Aerospace Systems. We don’t call them ‘drones’ anymore,” she says. “Infrastructure is a challenge, but the military-related operations here give us a very strong workforce in place. We just rethink our resources and recruit businesses that fit our environment.”

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