Tag Archives: Greater Phoenix Economic Council

Barry Broome

First Job: Barry Broome, President And CEO, Greater Phoenix Economic Council

Barry Broome
President and CEO, Greater Phoenix Economic Council (GPEC)

Describe your very first job and what lessons you learned from it.
I loaded trucks for Mountain Top pies on the west side of Columbus, Ohio. I was in the baker’s local union. I was 15 when I started that job. I remember asking my Dad, who was the plant superintendent at the time, what my goal should be. He said I should become the fastest loader on the dock. After a couple of weeks, I asked the supervisor who the fastest guy was. He said a guy named Sparks. I started requesting to load trucks with Sparks, so I could get fast enough to beat him. Sparks would always finish before me. When he was done, he’d sit around, smoke a cigarette and watch me finish loading. I never did beat him. But he was the only one I couldn’t beat. What I learned from that job was how important college would be for my future. Having grown up working class, it was difficult to see what people’s life was like in a plant. It was very limited. I wanted to build a rewarding life, and I wanted to do something that made a difference in other people’s lives.

Describe your first job in your industry and what you learned from it.
I worked for an initiative in Cleveland aimed at rebuilding inner-city neighborhoods. We focused on areas that had 100 percent poverty rates, high crime and gang violence. We created jobs and organized leadership. We worked with gangs, the Crips and the Bloods. We did a lot of work with the Nation of Islam. And a lot of the guys were ex-Black Panthers. I learned a lot from that experience. I realized how much potential people have, even when they live in poverty; that the amazing talent and potential of people can be harnessed if they are given hope. Hope is the most important thing you can instill in someone.

What were your salaries at both of these jobs?

I earned $5 an hour at Mountain Top. I made $24,000 a year working in Cleveland’s inner city. We almost starved, but the work shaped my life. It really gave me a sense of purpose.

Who is your biggest mentor and what role did they play?
My biggest mentor, outside of my mother, was a (state) senator from Cleveland named Charlie Butts. Charlie was a genius who saw all of the real problems in our country before most did and understood the magnitude of their complexity. He was instrumental in helping balance the moral compass, which needs to be balanced against ambition. He was the first person to instill in me that winning was not everything, but how you won really mattered. He taught me that principle was more important than power, that real leaders were essentially selfless.

What advice would you give to a person just entering your industry?
Do it for the love of community and be inspired by the work. You will never be disappointed.

If you weren’t doing this, what would you be doing instead?
Either running a tech company or coaching and teaching kids. I’ve built and launched a lot of new tech companies in Michigan. … If I didn’t do that, I would like to teach. I really enjoy being around young people and mentoring them. It’s important, powerful work.

Wooing businesses to AZ in the recession

Despite Tough Times, Economic Development Groups Continue To Woo New Businesses To Arizona

Economic development experts in Arizona hope to parlay the state’s convenient geographic location, and even a stagnant housing market, into attracting new businesses.

Toss in relatively low taxes, a freeze on new regulations and a well-honed reputation as a business-friendly state, and recruiters have a tool box full of reasons why businesses should consider relocating to Arizona.

But that’s not all the economic development agencies tout. Local experts know that businesses looking to relocate are interested in those intangible quality-of-life issues: an available and educated work force, a higher-education community that excels in research and churns out highly qualified workers, and a relatively low cost for starting up and doing business.

Television commercials are generally cost-prohibitive, officials say, leading them to rely heavily on the Internet for their recruitment efforts. Feature articles in national trade publications also represent a low-cost way of spreading the Arizona story.

Two of Arizona’s largest economic development agencies — the Greater Phoenix Economic Council (GPEC) and Tucson Regional Economic Opportunities (TREO) — are collaborating on a campaign to lure California businesses to Arizona.

Scarlett Spring, GPEC’s senior vice president of business development, says her team makes targeted trips to California at least once a month, with specific emphasis on the Bay Area, Los Angeles and San Diego. Often, GPEC invites local mayors along to give recruitment efforts an official flavor. Bringing mayors, Spring says, gives recruiters leverage and “opens doors that might not otherwise be open.”

The GPEC message to California?

“Arizona has a business-friendly environment and a reputation of having lowered taxes in some shape or form for 10 consecutive years,” Spring says. “It’s a lower-cost environment for their employees, whether through workers’ comp, competitive wages or health care insurance. Those are the operational costs that a company looks at when considering a financial move or expansion.”

Noting that virtually every phase of running a business is more expensive in California, Spring adds, “What we’re doing is trying to position Arizona as being complementary to the California marketplace.”

DGPEC also invites businesses to Arizona for special events. For example, last November biotech and solar companies from the Bay Area were hosted for a weekend in the Valley. The visit included attending a game between the Arizona Cardinals and the San Francisco 49ers. Two of those companies are close to moving to Arizona, Spring says.

Laura Shaw, senior vice president of marketing for TREO, agrees with the strategy of taking advantage of Arizona’s location. California businesses struggling under mounting operating costs have the ability to move to Arizona and still access California markets.

TREO targets such industries as aerospace, defense, biosciences and alternative energy, and only meets with companies that have been pre-qualified as likely candidates for relocation.

“Research shows that labor drives all market decisions — whether a company can find the labor that fills their needs,” Shaw says. “We focus on matching our assets with a company’s needs.”

Despite the national perception that Tucson is a low-wage community, TREO presses for higher-paying jobs.

What the Tucson area offers is a high-growth Southwestern region situated at the doorstep of California and Mexico, with young talent graduating from the University of Arizona. Tucson is also in the heart of one of the most heavily traveled trucking networks, linking Mexican markets to the California coast.

Meanwhile, the Arizona Department of Commerce, though on a limited basis because of budget cuts, continues to participate in trade shows and foreign direct investment events in Canada, Mexico and Europe. Commerce officials and hired contractors work with foreign companies that are interested in expanding to Arizona. They also help match Arizona firms with foreign customers.

Kent Ennis, interim director of the Commerce Department, confirms that a tight budget makes recruiting more difficult, yet the agency reaches out to major industries, including bioscience and solar. In fact, the Commerce Department led an Arizona delegation to a national convention of bioscience technology companies in Atlanta on May 18.

In addition, the Commerce Department assisted in the relocation of Spain’s Albiasa Solar, which in April announced plans to build a $1 billion renewable solar energy plant near Kingman. The project will create 2,000 construction jobs and more than 100 permanent positions when it is completed in 2013, Ennis says.

The Arizona Association of Economic Development, which is more of a trade organization representing Arizona firms and does not embark on recruiting efforts, nevertheless gets its share of contacts from businesses considering a move to Arizona, says Bruce Coomer, executive director of AAED. But first, he makes sure to sing Arizona’s praises. He mentions the usual advantages, but adds an unlikely twist.

Because our housing market crashed,” he says, “that’s a plus. Now there is affordable housing if a company wants to move here, especially from California. Their employees can really get some bargains.”

Michael Bidwill Arizona Cardinals

Q&A: Michael Bidwill, President, Arizona Cardinals

During these difficult economic times, how vital is an organization such as the Greater Phoenix Economic Council (GPEC) to the local economy?
GPEC is vitally important because it is the only regional organization focused exclusively on bringing new business to Greater Phoenix. Because GPEC works closely with companies considering expansion to the region, they know what companies need to make business decisions and gain insight into what steps the state can take to better compete with our Mountain West competitor states.

What can the Valley do to better position itself to succeed once the recession is over?
Diversify our economy and work with public sector leaders to create sensible, new programs that bring high-wage industries to Arizona. During the last decade of the real estate explosion, Arizona was one of the leading job-producing states. Over the last two years, we have fallen to 49th in terms of new job creation. Business as usual will not work. Now is the time to change our metrics and compete for other industries to migrate to Arizona.

Arizona and Greater Phoenix routinely lose projects to less desirable locations because of aggressive relocation programs in other states. GPEC has developed modest, fiscally responsible programs, such as the Quality Jobs Through Renewable Industries program, for the Arizona Legislature to consider. GPEC has vetted these programs with decision-makers in the renewable energy industry. Senior executives within these industries have told us this program would put Arizona in a more competitive position to win projects. GPEC also had Elliott D. Pollack and Company conduct a third-party review of our program to confirm its fiscal impact.

We need to immediately work with the state to develop and implement new programs that make our region more competitive.

What are some of the initiatives and goals you have planned this year for GPEC, and how will you go about achieving those goals?
In addition to solar and renewable energy, GPEC has three other strategies that we feel are meaningful generators of new business. We continue to work aggressively on a foreign direct investment program, as the United States is still an attractive environment to invest in for international companies. Next, in working with many of our public sector leaders, we are actively seeking to locate companies to Greater Phoenix from neighboring states with higher operating costs of doing business. Lastly, health care in Arizona is an untapped resource. In fact, Arizonans routinely seek health care outside of the state valued at hundreds of millions of dollars. We need to work with the health care industry to determine the needs not currently being met in Arizona and look to those opportunities for economic growth.

How did you first become involved in GPEC and how have your own professional experiences prepared you for your current role?
The Arizona Cardinals have long been stakeholders of GPEC, as we believed in its important work. I had no personal involvement until Glendale Mayor Elaine Scruggs asked me to serve on the GPEC board three years ago. I was honored to join and realized quickly how critical this organization is to helping our local economy grow, especially during this downturn and with the state’s budget cuts to the Arizona Department of Commerce.

You’ve seen first hand how important professional sports are to the local and regional economy. How can the Valley capitalize more on that in the future?
Sports are important to Arizona and we need to support what we have now. But, again, we need to focus on diversifying our economy. Like a personal stock portfolio, we cannot become “over-weighted” in any single sector. We have all the teams we need, but it will be important to attract events with significant economic impacts and exposure like the Super Bowl in the future. Our regional success will depend largely on creating a diverse and vibrant economy around many new industries and we can’t look to real estate or sports to take us out of this downturn.

Globe, International Business Growth in Arizona

New Group Aims To Boost International Business Growth In Arizona

Most Arizona legislators and business leaders now recognize the value of international commerce to the state. It hasn’t always been that way, but today there is broad agreement that exports from Arizona and foreign direct investment into Arizona from around the world create jobs and community growth. After all, 95 percent of the world’s population is outside the U.S., along with 70 percent of the world’s purchasing power. Why not tap into that power?

Arizona has made relatively slow progress with international trade compared to states such as California and Texas. Those states have each made greater per capita investments to encourage local companies to export and foreign companies to invest locally. Arizona is ranked in the bottom of U.S. states for foreign direct investment — No. 31 — according to the U.S. Department of Commerce. This creates an excellent opportunity for improvement.

With exports, the picture is a little better. Arizona businesses have done a reasonably good job of selling their products overseas. Exports from Arizona-based companies increased to $19.2 billion in 2007, contributing to good job and tax revenue growth. These figures rank Arizona as the 17th leading state for exports.

People all over the world know about the Grand Canyon, but few know about businesses within Arizona. Exports can help build global awareness of Arizona businesses, making the state a more viable candidate for foreign investment. That’s important because foreign companies investing in Arizona pay higher wages than local companies, and with today’s sputtering economy, the state’s economy needs all the help it can get.

According to the Greater Phoenix Economic Council (GPEC), if Arizona could increase foreign direct investment to be the 17th ranked state as it is with exports, it would attract 84,000 more jobs and $12.5 billion more in capital investment. How’s that for an economic shot in the arm?

“We need investment to capture strategic industry growth for Arizona, like Germany-based solar companies,” says Rod Miller, vice president of international economic development for GPEC. “In the current environment, increasing our investment in economic development initiatives will support a quicker and stronger economic recovery.”

Miller’s data shows a return in capital spending and taxes of as much as $110 for every dollar spent attracting companies to Arizona. GPEC is making progress despite Arizona’s low per capita investment. The good news is that many know what’s needed. The bad news is that Arizona, like other states, faces a challenging budget crisis.

It has been against this backdrop of both opportunity and challenge that the Arizona International Growth Group (AZIGG) was founded in 2007. AZIGG was created to provide a place for Arizona-based business owners to gain all the international information and connections they need to be successful overseas. Each of the existing business-support organizations has a piece of the international puzzle, but none has a full view of importing, exporting, international company attraction and international company retention. AZIGG brings it all together, including forums to attract and retain foreign companies.

AZIGG has quickly attracted more than 1,000 members from the Arizona business and business-support community. The group meets monthly to hear international business speakers and discuss ways to help Arizona-based businesses to export or to attract foreign direct investment.

AZIGG encourages cooperation between local international business and cultural groups, including the consulates, the Department of Commerce, GPEC, other city economic development resources, the Phoenix Committee on Foreign Relations, the World Affairs Council of Arizona, financial institutions working with the U.S. Export-Import Bank, trade associations such as the Arizona Technology Council, and international business service providers such as accounting, insurance, marketing and legal firms. AZIGG allows each resource to address the group monthly to keep business owners aware of the most recent ideas, news and opportunities.

In the same spirit of cooperation, the global law firm Squire, Sanders & Dempsey is stepping forward as the first business sponsor for AZIGG. This month, the firm is hosting the AZIGG International Business Fair at its law offices in Downtown Phoenix in order to make local businesses aware of all the services available for companies to grow internationally. Arizona and Arizona-based businesses need to be especially creative to compete against other states for opportunity dollars.

AZIGG encourages both government and private business actions to grow international development. Monthly meetings feature Arizona-based entrepreneurs such as Lee Knowlton of Kahala Corporation (which owns Cold Stone Creamery), Colin Christie of MX Secure and Omar Sayed of Succeed Corporation, all of whom are pioneers for Arizona in connecting their companies to the global market place. Similarly, global service firms such Squire, Sanders & Dempsey show leadership to help others succeed internationally.

Business owners now have more choices with less risk to grow their businesses internationally. Their success ultimately will result in a more balanced and sustainable economy for Arizona. Besides AZIGG, the U.S. Commercial Service’s Export Council and foreign consulates are available as resources to Arizona-based business owners. Additional resources are available on the AZIGG Web site, in AZIGG monthly meetings and as part ofthe AZIGG International Business Fair.

Besides international sales growth, there are other initiatives that all residents of Arizona can support to create a more level playing field for companies based in Arizona. They include:

  • More direct international flights to Sky Harbor International Airport.
  • Sending a clear message that Arizona is a state open to legal immigration.
  • Improving education from below average to above average in the U.S.
  • Providing tax incentives to attract capital-intensive industries.
  • Supporting international sales with education and infrastructure to increase exports.


Doug Bruhnke is president and founder of the Arizona International Growth Group (AZIGG) and CEO and founder of Growth Nation. For more information, visit www.azigg.com

Arizona's venture capital market receives boost

Arizona’s Venture Capital Market Receives Boost

Venture capital is still out there, but startups remain starved for investors

Arizona’s venture capital market has received a welcome boost, but startups and early-stage businesses are still looking for financial angels. Experts in the field say a new wave of venture capital is vital if the state’s economy is to continue growing at the pace it has been in recent years. Because Arizona is an attractive place to do business, experts expect to see an increase in interest by venture capitalists, perhaps later this year. They also believe that the flagging national economy is not a factor.

Yet, a PricewaterhouseCoopers’ report shows slippage in 2007, when Arizona companies received $200.7 million in venture capital compared to $262.6 million in 2006. Providing some relief in 2008 is the recent formation of the Translational Accelerator LLC (TRAC), a private Arizona-based, $20 million bioscience venture capital group. TRAC plans to invest between $500,000 and $2 million in any one company devoted to developing diagnostics, services, prevention agents and treatments directed to cancer and central nervous system diseases, including Alzheimer’s and multiple sclerosis.

Barry Broome, president and CEO of the Greater Phoenix Economic Council, calls the TRAC fund “an example of the investors’ commitment in taking the needed risk to help drive Arizona’s economy.”

Broome says reports indicate that virtually all of Arizona’s recent venture capital funding is in late-stage activity, funding mergers and acquisitions of built-up companies.

“The key component is getting a venture-capital model more aggressively focused around seed and startups,” he says. “That’s where you’re going to get long-term economic benefits.”

Venture capital peaked in 1999-2000 with the telecommunications industry and Internet-based companies. But since the dot-com bust, venture capital has yet to recover.

“People took big losses on them,” Broome says, “and subsequently there was a cooling of venture capital.”

Terree Wasley, director of entrepreneurial services at Arizona State University, sees gradual improvement in the venture capital arena, with no huge moves forward or back.

“Things are on a slow but steady incline going forward,” she says. “But if we’re looking at some sort of downturn in the economy, I’m not sure what impact that might have.”

Wasley says ASU Technopolis, which hosted the Invest Southwest Capital Conference in December, and ASU entrepreneurial services strive to train entrepreneurs who are worthy of investments.

“Our mantra is: ‘Good ideas always find funding, even in tougher times,’ ” she says.

Arizona’s venture capitalists often partner with out-of-state firms.

“They’re looking for good deals,” Wasley says. “They hear about them from other investors. Arizona is turning out a lot of good local talent. Investors look for that.”

Investors also look to stay within their geographic area, which bodes well for Arizona’s potential to attract some of the many venture capitalists in California.

“It’s an advantage for Arizona,” Wasley says.

Dee Harris, senior managing director at Alare Capital Securities LLC, an investment banking firm, doesn’t blame the economy for a shortage of venture capital.

“The primary problem is that venture capital firms in Arizona are basically fully invested,” Harris says.

Being fully invested is a two-sided coin.

“It’s a good sign in that they were able to find some good investments,” Harris says. “But, presumably, it’s a bad sign, because until they raise their next fund — which could take months — they’re not going to be much of a player in Arizona.”

Most of the interest is in life sciences, which means venture capitalists are not investing in technology information and semiconductor companies, Harris says.

Bob Morrison, executive director of Desert Angels in Tucson, says angel investors are not necessarily swayed by the general economy. Angels typically invest their own money, unlike venture capitalists who manage the pooled money of others in a professionally-managed fund.

“It’s a fairly small percentage of their total net worth,” he says. “Generally speaking, it’s their mad money. Nobody puts their lifetime savings into very many of these ventures that can be so risky.”

He dismisses suggestions that venture capital is drying up.

“For ventures that are well conceived and have a reasonable prospect for success, there is ample money,” he says.

But angel investors are reluctant to invest in biotech, he says, because it often takes a long time to make money, especially if the project requires approval from the Food and Drug Administration.

What can the state do to improve the venture capital climate? Broome says Arizona could dedicate 1 percent of the state’s pension fund for early-stage investment, as other states have done.

“If well managed, the use of 1 percent, or even one-half of 1 percent, of the pension fund into a venture strategy would be a major source of capital,” he says.

Wasley says angel investment tax credits also could help.

“Anything that gives investors any kind of incentive to invest in Arizona versus someplace else would be welcome,” she says.

For more information visit the following websites,
asuresearch.asu.edu
gpec.org

International business - AZ Business Magazine April 2008

International Business Opportunities Increase In Arizona

Arizona leaders are pushing the state’s businesses to the international forefront

When principals from United Kingdom-based txtNation, a technology solutions provider, wanted to spread their global wings they turned to Arizona to set up a U.S. location. Similarly, when the German firm Ubidyne, a wireless technology developer, was looking to establish its first U.S. global footprint, it zeroed in on Scottsdale and SkySong, the Arizona State University Scottsdale Innovation Center, to make an imprint. Ditto for Sebit, a Turkish e-learning company. Somehow, the Grand Canyon State is on the international radar these days.

Obviously, Arizona’s expansive blue skies and mountain vistas are appealing to these international companies. But the strategy behind such international business in Arizona hasn’t occurred by accident — it has been clearly mapped out by statewide economic development officials keen on building Arizona’s economy far beyond tourism, real estate and retirement mainstays.

Today, Arizona is playing on the global business stage and it is not a bit part. In 2007, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce, Arizona exported $19.18 billion worth of goods to a collection of countries around the globe — up from $18.28 billion in 2006.

The bulk of Arizona’s exports came from the Valley. According to 2006 figures from the U.S. Census Bureau, the metro Phoenix area logged almost $11 billion in exports, placing it in the top 20 metro areas nationwide. Tucson exported more than $3.2 billion worth of goods in 2006.

Based on the 2006 figures, Arizona’s increase in exports outpaced that of Texas and California. In addition, Arizona’s per capita exports in 2006 were at $2,966, besting Utah, New Mexico and Colorado.

Along with increasing exports, economic leaders’ are also working to bring more international businesses and foreign direct investment to the state.

“We strive to put Arizona on the international map,” says Barry Broome, president and CEO of the Greater Phoenix Economic Council and one of a handful of statewide economic experts pushing for Arizona’s global business success, in large part with his role in an economic statewide partnership called the Arizona Global Network (AGN). “Arizona is emerging as an incubator for international firms expanding in the U.S.”

The AGN includes economic brainpower from Flagstaff to Tucson to Yuma and everywhere in between. All have partnered with the goal to put Arizona’s business on the international scene. This stepped-up spotlight can be attributed to a number of factors. But for txtNation Director Michael Whelan, the decision for his firm came down to the fact that Arizona is a state on the ascension in the international business community.

“TxtNation chose Greater Phoenix due to its location, being a West Coast city on the rise,” he says, adding there is a global sense that Arizona is becoming an international “entrepreneurial hotbed” and that it also played a role in the expansion process.

Northern and Southern Exposure

Of course, Arizona has long counted its brother and sister to the North and South — Mexico and Canada — as global business family partners. These efforts continue today.

Glenn Williamson has experienced success in the international business market. He’s founded, sold and run various enterprises, but today he’s gunning for Arizona to build successful partnerships and business relationships with Canada. Much like Canada’s wide-open lands, the opportunities are vast.

“Our primary goal is to push bilateral trade between Canada and Arizona to the $5 billion mark by the end of 2008,” says Williamson, founder and CEO of the Canada Arizona Business Council (CABC). “We are well on our way to achieving that goal.”
Canada is Arizona’s No. 2 global trading partner behind Mexico. In 2006, according to U.S. Department of Commerce numbers, Arizona exported more than $5.3 billion worth of goods to Mexico compared to just more than $1.8 billion to Canada.

Williamson says the CABC has several primary goals. First, besides significantly increasing the trade between the two countries, the CABC is seeking a direct flight between Montreal and Phoenix, while also upgrading the seasonal flights between various Canadian cities and Arizona. Then, there is fostering the huge impact of Canadian residents who are interested in, or already are, doing business in Arizona.

“Gov. Janet Napolitano gets international business, the tourism folks get it, Tucson gets it and the Arizona Department of Commerce gets it,” Williamson says. “Now, we have to convince everyone else.”

Williamson is quick to praise statewide efforts such as AGN and calls statewide leaders, including ASU President Michael Crow, key catalysts to pushing Arizona onto the international business stage.

“ASU is huge in these efforts,” he adds. “We need their brainpower to make this successful. Everything is pointing in the right direction, but we need to put the pedal to the metal.”

International EDU

Besides Crow’s intensity at ASU and the hotbed of activity at SkySong, which Julie Rosen, ASU’s assistant vice president for economic affairs, touts as an atmosphere of “unparalleled opportunity,” other educational institutions in Arizona are aiming for the international business beacon.
Consistently ranking in the top echelon of international business schools, the Thunderbird School of Global Management has operations in Latin America, Asia, Europe and Russia. The school has forged public sector partnerships like those with ASU to better compete in the international education arena. Over the past two years, Thunderbird has pioneered significant relations with ASU, especially ASU’s West campus and the School of Global Management and Leadership (SGML).

In addition, the Arizona Department of Commerce has foreign trade offices in London, Mexico and Japan, as well as investment offices in Ireland, Japan and Hong Kong.

“Broadly, business executives and community leaders recognize that attracting out-of-state and foreign direct investment and business, as well as increasing trade, should receive significantly more emphasis to secure Arizona’s growth and provide good, well-paying jobs,” notes Gary Waissi, dean of the ASU SGML. “There are several organizations with advanced initiatives working aggressively on these areas.”

ASU, GPEC, AGN and others are continually pushing for increased international business opportunities in Arizona. But, as Arizona Department of Commerce Director Jan Lesher points out, while exports and international business opportunities continue to increase in the state, there is a baseline that needs to be established before Arizona can truly “go global” now and into the future.

“Arizona companies need to establish first a solid domestic market, and then consider expanding to national markets,” she says. “International customers can be ideal for Arizona-based businesses; however, this is a decision that needs to be done carefully — international means a company must have the resources, market know-how and commitment to stick with it.”

It’s a point not lost on those who, like Lesher, are continually working to cultivate these relationships.

“It is all about recognizing that in today’s world, business is truly global,” Waissi says. “And at the same time knowing there is a need to strategically diversify in select industries.

For more information visit the following websites:

azcommerce.com
gpec.org
commerce.gov

Katie Pushor - AZ Business Magazine October/November 2006

CEO Katie Pushor Adds Fresh Ideas To Greater Phoenix Chamber Of Commerce

New President and CEO Katie Pushor adds fresh ideas to Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce


Katie Pushor gets a rush as she looks out of her 27th floor office, taking in the booming development in downtown Phoenix. The president and CEO of the Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce mentions the expanding ASU campus, the expanding convention center and the TGen headquarters. “I just like to see what’s going on,” says Pushor, who took the helm of the 4,000-member chamber early this year.

“The most important thing I bring is the knowledge of actually running a business, being in business in the Valley for 27 years, and I understand the challenges that business owners and executives face,” Pushor says. “When we look at programs or events or opportunities we might have here at the chamber, I am able to say, ‘When I was in the business community, would that have had value for me? Is that something I would have wanted to go to?’”

Pushor agrees with others who say her leadership style is “calm and collaborative.” But she feels she is most noted for building superior management teams, “and getting accomplished through a team, what you could never accomplish through a collection of individuals.”

She’s also process-oriented. “I see structure,” she says. “Here at the chamber, I’ve been very interested in understanding our business processes and improving them so that they can better serve the needs of our growing community.”

Her main strength, Pushor says, is the diversity of her experience, but that’s not all. “My genuine interest in people and wanting their business to be successful is probably my greatest strength,” she says. “That’s what provides my motivation and passion when I come to work each day. I love to hear about other people’s business models, I like to understand what makes it work, how they get their customers, what their profit margin is, what their challenges are.”

Not surprisingly, Pushor says her weakness is impatience. “I’m able to see exactly what needs to get done, and I have a hard time understanding why it wasn’t done yesterday,” she says.

Working at the Arizona Lottery provided Pushor with a bridge to her current role. The Lottery is a quasi-public business that deals with 2,600 retail outlets, does a lot of consumer advertising and acts like a privately-held business, but is bound by legislative mandate.

“It was an opportunity for me to learn what it’s like to work with an administration and with elected officials and how to work within a legislative cycle,” she says. “And how a great deal of our value to the business community is advocating for them within the legislative and executive branches.”

Since coming on board at the Phoenix Chamber, Pushor has made it her business to meet with chambers and other groups in the Valley, such as the Greater Phoenix Economic Council and other economic development officials.

“That has helped me understand what they do, and helped me to differentiate in my mind what we’re doing,” she says. “What is the unique slot that we’re fitting in and where can we be of help to other people? Where can we join forces? A lot of it is communication and to be willing to be a student, and not come in and think you know all the answers.”

While high-tech is a key driving force of the Arizona economy, and a sector where Pushor excelled for several years, she now takes a broader view. “What the chamber really does is accelerate business growth and retention within the Valley,” she says. “What’s different about us is we look horizontally across the Valley. We don’t see you only as a bioscience company or only as a technology company or only as an agricultural company. We see you as a business partner.”

So the focus is on the challenges that all businesses face, such as workers’’ compensation, safety, human resource issues and employee retention. Pushor says her mission is to get the word out to non-member businesses about the services the chamber provides. “That’s why they hired me,” she says.

And she emphasizes that the chamber is not competing with business recruitment organizations. “They’re looking out of state, out of the country, to bring people here,” Pushor says. “We want you to start here and stay here and grow here. If they bring the fish in, then we’re the aquarium.”


Quick Facts about Katie Pushor

Katie Pushor’s resume reads like a been-there, done-that array of business and executive experience. She came to the Greater Phoenix Chamber from the Arizona Lottery, where under her leadership, revenues and profits soared. Beginning her career as a CPA, Pushor has started and operated two small businesses, held several executive positions at MicroAge starting in 1989, and in 2002, co-authored a book, “Into the Boardroom.”



Arizona Business Magazine October/November 2006