CEOs say education is Arizona’s No. 1 business challenge

Economy | 17 Feb, 2016 | AZ Business Magazine

In a first-of-its-kind survey of Arizona-based businesses about the state’s overall business climate, findings show that the number one business issue in the state is education, and that the number one priority for local and state governments should be increasing K-12 public funding.

The concern around education as it applies to job readiness was underscored through the study, with quality and availability of workforce being the next biggest concern.

The study, commissioned by Alliance Bank of Arizona in partnership with the Arizona Commerce Authority, the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Greater Phoenix Economic Council, polled 400 C-Suite executives about the benefits and challenges of doing business in Arizona. The study was conducted by Westgroup Research.

Findings showed education to be the biggest challenge to doing business in Arizona, with 50 percent of respondents citing education as their top concern. As the go-to business banking resource in Arizona, Alliance Bank of Arizona is a leader in generating positive economic change for Arizona businesses. These findings only reconfirm the hot-button issues that Alliance Bank and other local industry leaders continue to advocate for to improve Arizona’s business climate.

The study also measured perception of labor pool skills, highlighting math/science, communication skills and critical thinking/problem solving as the skills most often lacking in Arizona’s labor pool today.

Citing a willingness to learn as one of the key strengths, more than 61 percent of respondents indicated that increasing the state’s pool of STEM graduates would have a positive impact on their business, second only to enhancing the state’s image.

“These survey findings point to clear priorities for Arizona’s business community that need to be addressed, chiefly improving K-12 education and the related issue of creating a more skilled workforce,” said Jim Lundy, founding president and CEO of Alliance Bank. “Our state has a rich history of achievement driven by ingenuity and hard work, however this study reiterates that we still have work to do.”

Looking at the role local and state governments play in Arizona’s business climate, the survey responses again pointed to education as the biggest issue for both state and local government to address.

Of those who responded, 74 percent cited improving K-12 public education as the top action local government and specifically K-12 public funding as the number one action for state government to take to improve Arizona’s business climate.

“Smart investment in education will have real-time impact on Arizona businesses. That’s why Alliance Bank of Arizona supports Prop 123, a much-needed first step that does not raise taxes and systematically uses the state’s land trust to make a significant investment in K-12 education over the next 10 years,” Lundy said.

The study conducted in November 2015 also measured, overall confidence in Arizona’s business climate.  With nearly 60 percent of respondents indicating they were hiring in 2016—and a third planning for physical expansion—concern around education as it applies to job readiness came up over and over again. Workforce development was identified as the second biggest priority for local government.

Key economic and education policy leaders in Arizona, echoed the survey’s strong support for the positive impact additional public funding for K-12 education would have on Arizona’s business climate.

  • Chris Camacho, president and CEO, Greater Phoenix Economic Council, said, “As a state, we have an opportunity to change our education narrative. Making significant investments in our K-12 system will ultimately lead to an enhanced workforce, better-paying jobs and a more diversified economy; leading to an increase in economic growth.”
  • Sandra Watson, CEO, Arizona Commerce Authority, said, “These findings only reconfirm that a strong education system is key to a sustainable economy for Arizona. To continue to attract corporate expansions in the state, we need to ensure that our highly skilled workforce pipeline stays full and that begins with K-12 education. “
  • Glenn Hamer, president and CEO, Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said, “There is a very real skills gap in our workforce. The state needs a K-12 system that will develop critical thinking along with hard skills, like coding, for the economy into which they will graduate. Prop 123 is a critical investment in our future workforce.”
  • Sharon Harper, campaign chair for Prop 123, said, “State leaders, business owners, parents and teachers recognize the link between education and the economy, and this latest survey only reinforces this link. Arizona is currently near the bottom in per-pupil spending. Prop 123 will propel Arizona on a path to better enable its students to be prepared for their careers after K-12 education.”

 

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