Tag Archives: Arizona Forward

skytrain

Sky Train Project Recognized with Environmental Award

The PHX Sky Train™ has been selected for a top honor in the prestigious Arizona Forward Environmental Excellence Awards, receiving the first-place Crescordia award in the Multi-modal Transportation & Connectivity category. In addition, a public art project featured on one of the PHX Sky Train™ pedestrian bridges received special recognition.

Arizona Forward, in partnership with SRP, presented the 33rd Annual Valley Forward Environmental Excellence Awards on Saturday September 14. Considered the “Academy Awards” of the environmental community, the event is the oldest competition of its kind in Arizona. This year, there were more than 100 entries.

Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport’s PHX Sky Train™ provides a connection between Valley Metro light rail, East Economy Parking and Terminal 4, which serves 80 percent of the Airport’s passengers. The project was recognized for providing a vital transit link to the Phoenix area, alleviating roadway congestion and enhancing customer service. The PHX Sky Train™ project reduces vehicular traffic and emissions, energy consumption and water use. It attained LEED Gold certification from the US Green Building Council.

“The PHX Sky Train™ is a shining example of what we can accomplish when we work to improve our transportation system in a way that improves the air we breathe and reduces the water we use,” said Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton. “Phoenix will continue to reduce our energy consumption through green construction and energy efficient facilities.”

The stunning glass mural project incorporated into the walls of the walkways between Terminal 4 and the PHX Sky Train station™ was also recognized. Artist Daniel Mayer, glass fabricator Franz Mayer, glass installers Walters and Wolf and the Phoenix Office of Arts and Culture were honored with an Award of Merit in the Art in Public Places category.

“We are humbled by this recognition,” said Phoenix Aviation Director, Danny Murphy. “We owe the success of this project to our employees city-wide and to our business partners who put in countless hours of work to ensure a world-class experience for our customers on the PHX Sky Train.™”

Mr. Murphy thanked the Phoenix Aviation Department’s many partners in the project, including: Bombardier Transportation, Gannett Fleming, HOK, Fore Dimensions, Hensel Phelps, Kimley Horn & Associates, MEP Engineer, Dinter Engineering and Advance Terrazzo.

Diane Brossart - Fifty Most Influential Women in Arizona Business

Diane Brossart – 50 Most Influential Women in Arizona Business

Diane BrossartPresident and CEO, Arizona Forward

Brossart joined the nonprofit civic group — which aims to move Arizona forward environmentally, economically and socially — as a member 30 years ago. She was appointed to her leadership role in 1991, when Valley Forward focused exclusively on Maricopa County. Rebranded as Arizona Forward is 2012, its expanded statewide sustainability agenda includes: land use, transportation, air quality, energy, water and environmental education.

Surprising fact: “I believe my mother who passed away nearly 10 years ago lives as a rabbit in my backyard.”

Biggest challenge: “Taking Valley Forward statewide after 43 years as the Valley’s voice for balance. I’m bringing the best and brightest talent around Arizona together to help make the Grand Canyon State the greatest place in America to live.”

Fifty Most Influential Women in Arizona Business – Every year in its July/August issue Arizona Business Magazine features 50 women who make an impact on Arizona business. To see the full list, read the digital issue >>

federal transportation bill

Arizona Forward hopes to guide Arizona’s transportation systems

As Valley Forward transitions to Arizona Forward to encompass a statewide focus, it’s only fitting that the association with a 43-year history of success tackling environmental issues — including land use, water management, air quality and energy — turns its attention to an issue that impacts every resident and every business in Arizona.
Transportation.

“Valley Forward has always valued transportation as one of the organization’s key areas of interest,” says John Godec, president of Godec, Randall & Associates Inc., which helps governments and businesses solve public and stakeholder challenges. “The Phoenix and Tucson metros have seen radical transportation changes and improvements in the past decade, so we’re asking, ‘What’s next? Are we good to go now?’”

Just as it did last year with parks and open spaces, Valley Forward hopes to answer those questions as it unveils its stance on transportation, covering topics such as transportation planning, how it impacts the quality of life in the Sun Corridor and how transportation affects Arizona’s economy.

One issue that Valley Forward wanted to address in its Transportation Primer is one on the minds of every Arizona: traffic congestion and how to better connect cities with each other. According to a policy report written by Byron Schlomach for The Goldwater Institute, the average Phoenix commuter spends an average of 38 hours a year in traffic, while a commuter in Tucson spends roughly 42 hours in traffic.

In an attempt to remedy traffic congestion in Phoenix, voters adopted Proposition 400 in November of 2004, which allowed for the renovating and extending of current freeways and the addition of more public transportation, such as the Valley Metro Light Rail, all of which connect small communities with larger cities. In Tucson, Pima County voters approved the $2.1 billion Regional Transportation Plan, which saw the construction of a modern streetcar project throughout the city, giving more people a chance to get around, while getting cars off the highways.

However, the question that has been asked by Valley Forward is, is it enough, especially since Arizona only seems to be growing in size?

“At least half the transportation systems that the state will need in 2050 have yet to be built,” says Sally Stewart, deputy communications director at the Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT) and Valley Forward member. “Despite the recent economic downturn, Arizona’s growth is not over. It is not a question of whether the Sun Corridor — one of the emerging megapolitan regions in the country — will be a reality; it is simply a matter of when.”

According to a study published in March 2010 by ADOT, it is expected that Arizona’s population will more than double, from 6.4 million to about 16 million people in the next 30 years. Maricopa County’s population is expected to increase by 90 percent, from 4 million people to about 7.6 million. The study suggests that because of this population explosion, travel times for various destinations in the Sun Corridor could increase by about 100 percent by 2050. This could mean that a trip between Phoenix and Tucson, which currently is about a 95-minute drive, could take up to 5.5 hours in 2050 (assuming that the Interstate-10 freeway is widened to about 10 lanes).

Valley Forward experts say that Arizona must plan ahead to improve this possible transportation dilemma, especially if the state wants to see more business activity and economic improvement.

“Transportation is key for economic development,” says said Eric Anderson, transportation director at the Maricopa Association of Governments. “The ability of a company’s workforce to commute on a predictable basis is critical. The movement of freight in and out of the region is also important. Companies looking to locate in the region always look at the adequacy of the transportation system in providing mobility and travel options.”

According to the American Public Transportation Association, every $1 billion invested in public transportation supports and creates 36,000 jobs. Despite the fact that policies, such as Proposition 400, have created and funded transportation projects, Valley Forward says that there is still not enough money allocated for Arizona’s travel needs.

“Arizona’s future economic development will be tied closely to the state’s willingness to commit funding and resources to improving and expanding its statewide transportation system,” says Craig Hughes, CEO and founder of Total Transit, the parent company of Discount Cab in Phoenix and Tucson. “Without a firm commitment to building and maintaining an efficient, integrated transportation network, the future could be one of congested freeways, inadequate rural highways, gridlocked city streets and under-funded and under-utilized mass transit.”

Valley Forward hopes that its stance and data findings will help create a dialogue not only among Phoenix and Tucson residents, but also policymakers.

“Arizona’s business community is a vital participant in guiding policymakers regarding the infrastructure challenges facing the state,” Stewart says. “If Arizonans want to enjoy a better quality of life based on a vibrant economy, then the business community must work closely with policymakers to make the difficult, but necessary decisions regarding transportation infrastructure.”

Adds Diane Brossart, president and CEO of Valley Forward, “We want to bring together the public and private sectors. Valley Forward’s goal is to try and drive the conversation to the middle and take the politics out. We want to drive up solutions so that Arizona, as a whole, can advance and can sustain itself.”

Brossart Diane final 9314 5-29-12

Valley Forward Exands its horizon

Timing is everything, even when it comes to Mother Nature.

“In 2010, we got an $85,000 grant to look at some federal issues on sustainability,” says Diane Brossart, president and CEO of Valley Forward, which brings business and civic leaders together to improve the environment and livability of Valley communities. “We were asked to target Arizona’s Congressional delegation and get them up to speed in regards to understanding a sustainability agenda for Arizona and what that meant.”

What grew from that seed was an initiative that had actually been germinating for more than a decade, Brossart says: taking the successful Marocopa County-centric Valley Forward and giving is a statewide focus. In August, Valley Forward’s board voted unanimously to to move forward with a business plan that will transition Valley Forward into Arizona Forward in January.

Brossart says the state is facing some serious issues related to the environment and the livability and vitality of Arizona’s cities and towns will be impacted by upcoming decisions related to:
* Land use planning and open space,
* A balanced multi-modal transportation system,
* Improving and maintaining healthy air quality,
* Solar and renewable energy technology,
*  Managing our water resources, and
* Protecting wilderness, parks, national monuments and other natural areas for Arizona’s tourism economy.

“As Arizona and the country recover from the Great Recession, a statewide dialogue is more important than ever,” says William F. Allison, a shareholder at Gallagher & Kennedy. “The issues impacting us – water, energy, transportation, land use – involve the entire state rather than only the Valley. Arizona Forward will provide a forum to think outside the box and beyond the Valley.”

To get Arizona Forward to have its greatest statewide impact, Brossart and her staff connected with nine companies that had influence on communities along the Sun Corridor — the stretch of freeway that connects Tucson, Phoenix, Prescott and Flagstaff — to become charter members of Arizona Forward.

“The leaders of those companies have become our tour guides as we go into Pima County and Northern Arizona,” Brossart says. She points to Kurt Wadlington, employee-owner of Sundt Construction in Tucson, for opening doors for Arizona Forward to spread its wings into Southern Arizona.

“Southern Arizona already has a very strong environmental focus, but struggles with areas that are dependent on statewide engagement from both a funding and advocacy perspective,” Wadlington says. “(Valley Forward’s) shift (to a statewide focus) will provide Southern Arizona with added resources to coordinate its future growth in the larger context of the Sun Corridor.”

Experts agree that now is the perfect time for Valley Forward to shift to a statewide focus statewide because Arizona is at a turning point, economically and environmentally.

“There are major issues that affect the state like transportation; managing resources; and protecting the wilderness, parks, and national monuments,” says Alfie Gallegos, area sales manager for Republic Services. “These are not just environmental issues, but are issues that have an effect on Arizona’s economy statewide. I think Arizona is ready to start having more positive statewide conversations about finding ways to grow our economy in a manner that can be sustained and is environmentally friendly.”

Brossart says that while Arizona has had countless groups that have focused on making their communities better, Arizona Forward will be looking to help educate legislators become the glue that brings those regional organizations together in a spirit of cooperation and unity.

“So much of our goal is to drive a political agenda to the middle and bring folks on both sides of the aisle together,” Brossart says. “The issues that we focus on are sustainability and environmental. Everybody needs clean air, clean water, open space and parks. Those are the things that make a community viable, healthy and liveable. We all want that. Those aren’t political issues. But they do fall into a political arena that sometimes clouds the issues. But if we can be a reasoning voice of balance like we have been successfully in Maricopa County, if we can bring that statewide, it will be really good for Arizona — economically and environmentally.”

Valley Forward members expect the transition to Arizona Forward to foster additional collaboration and conversation on statewide issues, bring additional viewpoints on key issues and allow for a more global conversation.

“My hope is that we can, over time, have a collective vision that regardless of our own regional filters, we’re all in this together and need to find ways to move forward as one sustainable, economically successful state,” says Iain Hamp, community affairs representative, Wells Fargo Team Member Philanthropy Group.

Brossart says one of the biggest messages Arizona Forward will be trying to communicate is that making sound decisions about issues surrounding sustainability and the environment are good for business.

“If we make a case that shows the economic impact of parks and open space on the tourism industry, the business community will take notice and they are uniquely poised to deliver of that message and be heard,” Brossart says. “Parks groupies are great and they are important. But when the business community gets involved, people listen.”

Where Arizona Forward could have its biggest economic impact is on growth industries that rely on the state’s amazing natural resources.

“It’s an exciting time to be a part of solar energy, as the clean, renewable energy source is experiencing massive growth and helping the state and country achieve greater energy independence,” says Patricia Browne, director of marketing and communications for SOLON Corporation in Tucson. “And Arizona has been at the center of this growth. This has been made possible not only by the companies developing the solutions, but by the state and local officials, Arizona-based businesses and individual residents who recognize the importance that solar plays in a number of ways such as a cleaner environment, economic development, and energy price stability. However, there are still challenges in making the adoption viable on a large scale, and Arizona Forward helps bring together the right players to help make this happen on a state level.”

Richard Mayol, communications and government relations director for Grand Canyon Trust in Flagstaff, says Arizona Forward will give members in northern Arizona the opportunity to not only have a voice in discussions that affect the state today, but in decisions that impact what Arizona will be like 20 years from now.

“We hope it will help create an economy that provides the opportunity for prosperity without sacrificing the environment,” he says, “and makes northern Arizona an even better place to live, work, and raise a family.”

And that is what Arizona Forward’s mission is all about: bringing business and civic leaders together in order to convene thoughtful public dialogue on statewide issues and to improve the environment and sustainability of Arizona.

“All areas of the state will benefit, from urban to rural and suburban areas in between due to a coordinated and planned strategy for such essential elements as affordable energy, water, transportation, affordable housing, and a wide band of employment opportunities,” says Janice Cervelli, dean of the College of Architecture and Landscape Architecture at the University of Arizona. “All geographic, economic, and environmental sectors of the state will increasingly become part of a larger, interdependent, connected system.”

GOALS OF ARIZONA FORWARD

* Establish cooperative relationships with like-minded Arizona conservation organizations and facilitate collaboration on sustainability initiatives.
* Bring business and civic leaders together to convene thoughtful public dialogue on regional issues and to improve the environment and sustainability of Arizona.
* Increase awareness of and interest in environmental issues initially in the Sun Corridor and then beyond, statewide, building on an agenda of land use and open space planning, transportation, air quality, water, and energy.
* Support efforts to promote the Sun Corridor as an economic development area incorporating sustainability and smart growth principles.
* Serve as a technical resource on environmental issues through Arizona Forward’s and Valley Forward’s diverse membership of large corporations, small businesses, municipal governments, state agencies, educational institutions and nonprofit organizations.

ARIZONA FORWARD CHARTER MEMBERS
Arizona Community Foundation
First Solar
Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold
National Bank of Arizona
SOLON Corporation
Sundt Construction
The Nature Conservancy
Total Transit
Wells Fargo

FOUNDING MEMBERS: Access Geographic, LLC; Adolfson & Peterson Construction Company; APS; Arizona Conservation Partnership; Arizona Department of Transportation; Arizona Heritage Alliance; Arizona Investment Council; Arizona State Parks Foundation; Arizona State University, Global Institute of Sustainability; Aubudon Arizona; Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona; Breckenridge Group Architects/Planners; Caliber Group; City of Tucson; Environmental Fund of Arizona; Fennemore Craig; Gabor Lorant Architects; Gammage & Burnham; Godec Randall & Associates; Grand Canyon Trust; Guided Therapy Systems; Haley & Aldrich; Intellectual Energy, LLC; John Douglas Architects; Jones Studio; Kinney Construction Services, Inc.; Lewis and Roca LLP; Logan Halperin Landscape Architecture; Pima County; RSP Architects; Southwest Gas Corporation; SRP; University of Phoenix; TEP / UNS Energy Corp.; The Greenleaf Group

solar panels, renewable energy

As Renewable Energy Makes Process, Energy Policy To Be Explored

An unlikely group of bedfellows gathered for a private meeting last month to discuss the future of energy policy in Arizona. While they didn’t solve any issues, there is a measure of success in simply convening dialogue among this small but powerful group of diverse stakeholders representing the governor’s office, state legislature, Arizona Corporation Commission, utilities, private industry and the nonprofit sector. Objective, civil discourse on sometimes contentious topics can be productive.

The renewable energy sector has made inroads in Arizona, including the following notable accomplishments:

  • In 2001, Arizona established one of the first Renewable Portfolio Standards in the U.S. and today are targeting 15 percent by 2025, with the highest solar carve out in the nation.
  • The National Renewable Energy Lab ranks Arizona the best state for solar capacity.
  • Greater Phoenix is home to both pioneering research institutions as well as the world’s largest solar generation projects.
  • Arizona offers renewable companies refundable corporate income tax credits and reduced real and personal property taxes. Arizona passed landmark legislation opening the door for renewable energy companies to expand here — not just solar, but also wind, biofuel, geothermal and other technologies.
  • Our major utilities are servicing more than 30,000 Arizona customers with rooftop solar.
  • In addition, utilities have installed more than 316 MWs of energy through large-scale solar projects and 225 MW of wind energy in the state.
  • We have relatively low electricity rates compared to many other states in the country.
  • And, our energy efficiency standard is also very aggressive.

However, energy policy in Arizona has gone virtually unchanged since we became a state 100 years ago, so it is inevitably time to evaluate and explore what’s next and best for our state’s energy future. As a non-partisan, third-party interest, Arizona Forward is committed to helping ascertain how major stakeholders can work together on critical statewide issues and is dedicated to continuing this productive dialogue among energy sector leaders.

valley forward receives grant

Valley Forward Receives $80K Grant

A coalition to foster a statewide sustainability agenda for Arizona has been propelled by a major grant, two new high-level prominent Charter members, its first public sector recruit and two more utilities joining the diverse business-based group.

Valley Forward Association recently received an $80,000 grant from the Nina Mason Pulliam Charitable Trust with the opportunity to renew funding for an additional two years to grow its Arizona Forward initiative, launched last year to promote a healthy environment while encouraging economic vitality. As part of its annual grant program, the Trust awarded more than $1.8 million to 22 Arizona nonprofit organizations.

The University of Arizona and Cox Communications are the newest Charter members, joining nine other high-level entities represented on the Arizona Forward Advisory Board. Other new recruits include Pima County, Unisource Energy Corporation and Southwest Gas Corp., bringing the total roster to 41.

“This generous financial support from the Trust will allow us to continue our education, outreach and advocacy aimed at enhancing the livability and sustainability of communities throughout Arizona,” said Diane Brossart, acting director for Arizona Forward. “Our ultimate goal is to encourage more coordinated regional efforts through an exchange of ideas and information statewide that bolster our overall economic growth and environmental quality.”

Arizona Forward is leveraging the resources of the 43-year-old Valley Forward to bring business and civic leaders together to convene thoughtful public dialogue on statewide sustainability issues. The group’s basic agenda focuses on land use and open space planning, protecting public lands, parks and monuments, as well as transportation, air quality, water and energy.

“We have experienced impressive growth of public and private sector members in a relatively short time, coupled with an initial grant from a private foundation in 2011 and the one we just received from the Trust,” said Kurt Wadlington, Tucson building group leader for Sundt Construction and chairman of Arizona Forward. “It demonstrates the need for what we are providing and encourages corporate stewardship.

ABOUT NINA MASON PULLIAM CHARITABLE TRUST ORGANIZATION

Since the Trust began its grant making in 1998, it has awarded more than $99.2 million to 422 Arizona nonprofit organizations. The Trust also makes grants in Indiana and as of March 31, 2012, had assets of approximately $350 million. Visit ninapulliamtrust.org for more information about the Trust and its programs.

ABOUT ARIZONA FORWARD

Arizona Forward is an initiative that brings business and civic leaders together to convene thoughtful public dialogue and advocacy on statewide sustainability issues. Charter Members include: Arizona Community Foundation, Cox Communications, First Solar, Freeport McMoran Copper and Gold, National Bank of Arizona, Solon Corporation, Sundt Construction, The Nature Conservancy, Total Transit, University of Arizona and Wells Fargo.

For more information on Valley Forward and the Arizona Forward initiative, visit arizonaforward.org or call (602) 240-2408.

Democratic Process And AZ Parks

Democratic Process, Both Frustrating And Rewarding

Talk about good news/bad news and all in a single day – that’s the democratic process in action for better or worse!

As an advocate for Arizona State Parks, I was disappointed that Gov. Brewer vetoed House Bill 2362 introduced by Rep. Karen Fann. Her bill would have protected earned income by state parks, such as entrance fees and other user charges, from further legislative budget sweeps.

I’m a registered lobbyist for Arizona Forward, a statewide business-based environmental coalition, but don’t often spend the day at our state capitol.  Mostly I advocate through education and outreach. But earlier this year, I participated in State Parks Advocacy Day at the capitol and co-hosted a press conference on the lawn with the Arizona State Parks Foundation. One of many parks stakeholders, I visited legislators in their office to communicate support for HB 2362. My own legislator, Rep. John Cavanaugh, told me he would not support the measure because the revenues would not be appropriated.

That’s why when the bill soared through the House and the Senate with bipartisan support and only a few opposing it, we were especially elated and felt like we made a difference. But then… our governor vetoed the bill.  That was definitely disheartening.

At the same, however, I learned the governor also vetoed HB 2757, which would have allowed for electronic billboards, a measure that violated the state’s ban on intermittent light, ruining the dark skies that have made Arizona a prime site for astronomical research.  That was good veto for the environment.

There’s democracy for you – it’s no doubt sometimes frustrating. After spending weeks getting park advocates, business owners and involved citizens to meet with their senators and representatives, it was erased with a single veto signature.  Admittedly, this bill definitely wasn’t the answer to state parks funding problems but it was a small step in the right direction.

On a positive note, many conservationists are already working on potential long-term solutions to fund parks and open space throughout Arizona. Plus, Rep. Fann is working on resurrecting her bill with a narrower focus to get passed in this session. Even though the governor has indicated she will support this revised version and agrees that parks create value in our community, anything can happen. Stay tuned and keep your fingers crossed.

Or better yet, speak out and voice your support for parks. If you would like to lend your voice to advocating for Arizona’s natural assets – the beautiful parks and open space that draws so many to the Grand Canyon State – please visit arizonaforward.org.

Renewable Energy

Arizona’s Renewable Energy Industry Generates $2B, Thousands Of Jobs

The renewable energy sector is a $2 billion industry with an estimated 16,800 jobs created in 2011, according to a new study conducted by Elliot D. Pollack & Company. The report was commissioned by Pinal Partnership with support from Arizona Forward and was released at the Renewable Energy Economic Summit & Conference hosted by both organizations last week. More than 200 industry professionals attended this sold-out conference held in Casa Grande.

Renewable energy is still a small part of the overall economy in Arizona, which totals 1.7 million jobs in the Phoenix area alone. However, to put this in perspective consider the copper industry — one of the state’s original five Cs  — which generates only 9,000 jobs with 70 percent of the country’s copper produced in Arizona. Another positive is that recent job growth in the renewable energy industry has helped replace lost construction jobs.

Public policy, energy efficiency, untapped renewables and the future role of solar in Arizona’s economy were among the other topics addressed by four different panel sessions featuring industry experts. They noted that while Arizona has some of the best clean energy resources in the nation, we are still behind other states in harnessing new energy development.

Regulatory uncertainties, global competition, rapid changes in technology, along with financing, siting and transmission issues are all challenges the industry faces. Panelists suggested that we must work together to maintain a reasonable level of support for solar and renewable energy technologies both through incentives and policy.

In order to continue to grow the renewable energy sector, the Pollack report recommends Arizona become more involved in the manufacturing of components and products to export to places like California where much of the installation activity is happening. Arizona has less regulatory intrusion and a much lower manufacturing cost base than its West Coast neighbors.

What’s promising is that with leadership at the federal, state and local levels, we can expand the renewable energy sector and create new jobs while enhancing our environmental quality. Public and private sectors must work together to identify and foster long-term policy solutions. The Grand Canyon state is uniquely poised to be a leader in clean energy, which will benefit the economy, communities and environment.

For more information about renewable energy, Elliot D. Pollack & Company or Arizona Forward, visit edpco.com or valleyforward.org.

Valley Forward

Valley Forward: Reflecting On Two Decades Of Service

I never really thought when I took the job that I’d see my 20th year anniversary as president of Valley Forward. That’s not to say I expected to leave my post sooner. For the past two decades, it’s been pretty automatic – I got out of bed every morning and found my way to the office without much thought about doing anything differently.

And for that I have no regrets. Serving this 42-year-old environmental public interest organization is an honor and a privilege but even more, a passion that has enriched my life in many ways. For that I thank all of the Valley Forward members  – the lifeblood of our impressive and diverse association, as well as our friends in the community who have supported our efforts over more than four decades.

This has been a year of significant change and transition as we’ve taken our mission statewide through a new initiative, Arizona Forward. I’ve become a regular on the I-10 corridor to Tucson and north to Prescott and Flagstaff via 1-17. The prospect of commuter rail  in the Sun Corridor one day brings great promise for enhancing our connectivity and bridging economic development opportunities.

We’ve come a long way during my tenure, which spans almost half of Valley Forward’s existence. From creating and presenting the state’s first official Earth Day celebration to co-hosting Arizona’s largest volunteer clean up along the Salt River, we have engaged countless individuals in our environmental programs.

Our advocacy of desert preservation and open space, multi-modal transportation options, water conservation and renewable energy alternatives has helped to shape public policy in our region that impacts both our livability and sustainability. We’ve graded Valley cities on how they respond to growth issues and made them stronger in the process. Our publications on smart growth strategies have helped educate public and private sectors.

That’s a lot! It’s also what drives my enthusiasm for Valley Forward – it’s ever changing, never static, always moving and anything but boring. I encourage everyone to get involved in something – find a way to give back to the community you’ve made your home. It will reward you in many ways.

I thank those who picked Valley Forward for their involvement. We couldn’t have made such strides without significant support from the community at large. 2012 brings with it ample opportunities to continue our collective journey to balance Arizona’s environmental quality and economic growth towards a more vibrant future.

For more information about Valley Forward, visit valleyforward.org.

Arizona Forward - AB Magazine November/December 2011

Arizona Forward Hopes To Preserve Parks, Open Land

As one of the earliest pioneers of sustainability in the Valley, Valley Forward has had an Arizona presence for 42 years. The organization’s focus on land use and open space, air quality, water, energy and transportation has grown immensely since its inception. It is no surprise that this progressive group has once again embarked on the next sustainable step with the creation of Arizona Forward — a public interest coalition aimed at bringing together business, community and civic leaders to convene public dialogue and advocacy on sustainability in the state.

“By promoting cooperative efforts between Arizona cities and towns, the state’s livability, sustainability and economic vitality will be enhanced for both current and future generations,” says Kurt Wadlington, employee-owner at Sundt Construction, Tucson Building Group Leader and Arizona Forward advisory board chair.

Arizona Forward is initially expected to focus on the Sun Corridor, the region encompassing Tucson to Phoenix, hoping to encourage collaborative efforts between members and strike a balance between economic growth and environmental quality.

“We believe there is a strong connection between the health of our environment and the health of our economy,” says Pat Graham, state director of the Nature Conservancy in Arizona. “Arizona Forward provides an opportunity for like-minded businesses and organizations from across the state to come together and come up with solutions.”

First on the agenda for the coalition is spreading the message about the importance of parks and open spaces and their economic impact on the state.

According to the Outdoor Industry Foundation, nearly 5.5 million Arizonans participate in outdoor recreation. This leads to approximately $350 million in annual state tax revenue and supports 82,000 jobs in Arizona.  Arizona Forward leaders say the economic impact of parks and open spaces is just one reason why the business community should take notice and take a stand.

“One of the challenges today is the complexity of the problems we face,” Graham says. “It requires working together in new ways and with new partners to find solutions that improve the health of both the economy and our environment to maintain a good quality of life in Arizona.”

A study compiled by WestGroup Research on behalf of Valley Forward found that 93 percent of Arizonans categorize parks and open space as “essential” to Arizona’s tourism industry. The study also found that 23 percent of Arizonans visit parks or recreation areas at least once a week.

Just how much open space are we talking about? State and federal entities, along with Native American tribes in Arizona manage more than 70 million acres of land (excluding county and municipal parks). Not surprisingly, negative effects on our parks and open space have a big impact on the state’s bottom line.

“Economic development and new jobs rely on lifestyle considerations,” Wadlington says. “Parks, forests, refuges and other open spaces support the quality-of-life factors that can make a difference for communities seeking to attract employers and a strong workforce. Access to open space boosts property values and provides healthy outdoor recreational opportunities for residents and tourists alike. If we don’t prioritize our parks and open space, we will lose our most treasured resources.”

Prioritizing these aspects has a major economic impact on Arizona. A 2009 National Parks Second Century Commission projected that every $1 in taxpayer money spent on national parks returned a $4 economic benefit through tourism and private sector spending. A June 2011 press release from the Department of the Interiors’ Economic Contributions Report further emphasized this information, with data showing that Arizona’s public lands supported 21,364 jobs and contributed nearly $2 billion to Arizona’s economy.

It is figures like these that Arizona Forward hopes will get the public and policy makers involved with protecting parks and open spaces. State legislators must stop encroaching on the parks-system budget and instead focus on securing funding for their protection, Valley forward leaders say.

“A depressed economy has impacted parks negatively at every jurisdictional level,” Wadlington says. He noted that an already-weakened parks system could be further depleted if lawmakers don’t get the message from their voters about protecting these open spaces.

“As the economy recovers and state revenues return, legislators will be faced with many choices on how to best allocate these funds,” Wadlington says. “As a community, we have to step forward collectively and make a strong case for the parks system and open space preservation.”

Like the mission Valley Forward embarked on 42 years ago, Arizona Forward hopes to serve as the catalyst for change during these trying times.  A diverse membership group with a common goal of environmental stewardship hopes to protect the state’s important parks and open spaces and other environmental issues facing Arizona.

“Future Arizona vision: A place where people want to live and work, where growth occurs responsibly and does not diminish quality-of-life,”  Wadlington says. “A place where business thrives, creating public revenue that can be reinvested in perpetuating sustainability of our state’s natural resources and quality-of-life amenities.”

For more information about Valley Forward and Arizona Forward, visit www.valleyforward.org.

Arizona Business Magazine November/December 2011

 

Arizona Forward, State Park Issues

Arizona Forward Enhances Awareness of Arizona’s Park Issues

Arizona Forward Enhances Awareness of Arizona’s Park Issues

Arizonans value their parks and open space, consistently ranking them as key quality of life indicators. A recent survey conducted of residents statewide shows that 87 percent visit a park or recreation area at least once a year, with 23 percent doing so on a weekly basis. In addition, parks and open spaces create thousands of jobs and billions of dollars in revenue.

Multiple land ownerships and funding mechanisms have produced parks and open space issues that are complex, confusing and sometimes controversial. In fact, the telephone survey conducted by WestGroup Research further revealed that most residents (80 percent) rate their knowledge of how state and local parks are funded as very low or in the middle range. Meanwhile, a depressed economy and recession has impacted parks negatively at every jurisdictional level from federal and state to county and municipal governments.

Recognizing the need for public education on the subject of parks and open space issues, Arizona Forward, a new statewide environmental/business coalition launched by Valley Forward earlier this year, developed a comprehensive report to provide unbiased facts, background information and answers to frequently asked questions about state and federal lands as well as county and municipal parks.

Designed to enhance awareness of and interest in solving Arizona’s parks issues, the primer is among Arizona Forward’s first projects towards its mission to promote cooperative efforts to improve the livability, sustainability and economic vitality of cities and towns across Arizona. Readers can sort out how much open space is available in the state, who is responsible for it and the challenges facing various jurisdictions of government. The user-friendly reference guide is described as ‘parks and open space 101’ and can be downloaded at arizonaforward.org.

While the primer doesn’t take a formal position on how to solve funding issues relating to parks, it communicates the economic impact of recreational and open space amenities and why Arizonans should care about these natural resources.

Charter members of Arizona Forward include: Arizona Community Foundation, First Solar, Freeport McMoran Copper and Gold, National Bank of Arizona, Solon Corporation, Sundt Construction, The Nature Conservancy, Total Transit and Wells Fargo.

For more information about Arizona Forward, visit arizonaforward.org.