President, Arizona Cardinals
Why did you opt for a second term as GPEC chairman?
It is an honor to serve a second year as chairman of GPEC. The organization is doing meaningful work, and I wanted to help build upon that work. I think it’s also important to provide consistency in leadership, particularly during times like this. Over the last year, GPEC has made impactful contributions to Arizona’s economy, including our work on the renewable energy incentive program (SB1403). We have much more to do and serving another year as chairman will allow me to continue to work closely with the governor, Legislature and business community on vital economic development issues.
You have been GPEC’s chairman during one of the worst economic downturns the Valley has seen in decades. What lessons have you taken from this experience and what have you learned about the business community?
Our state was unprepared for the slowdown in the economy and the ramifications are going to be sobering in 2010 for those not following the state budget cuts. It is clear that the business community needs to lead the effort to diversify our industry base. And it is equally clear that we have many talented, passionate business community members who are ready to step forward and provide new leadership. Like in football, we need a game plan and players on the field to execute it.
Economists say the recession has made Arizona more affordable again, and thus more attractive to relocating companies. Do you agree with this assessment, and how is GPEC making sure the Valley maximizes its competitiveness?
I believe it is one factor, but not significant enough to be a game changer. Arizona needs to understand that we compete for business expansion and relocation with our Mountain West competitor states. Decision makers who decide where these projects (and jobs) are located factor many things: an educated work force, cost of and access to capital, business operating environment and an ability to attract and retain talent. Housing costs play a role, but our competition has a leg up on Arizona in many of the other areas. We need to stress to our elected officials that we need a game plan to recover from this downturn and diversify our economic base.
GPEC has targeted the renewable energy industry as a source of new business opportunities. How do Arizona’s efforts to attract green companies compare with those of other states? How would you assess any progress the state has made?
With the passage of SB1403 last session, we are well positioned to land new solar and renewable energy companies. But Corporate America is going green too and looking for green or LEED-certified buildings. Arizona needs to develop new programs to bring our commercial buildings to LEED certification. There is no doubt this will help in our effort to land new projects.
What are some of the goals and initiatives GPEC is taking on this year and how will it go about achieving those goals?
We have several efforts. First, we are providing analysis to the Legislature on how rewriting the state’s Enterprise Zone legislation will stimulate job creation and fill some of the empty commercial space. Second, we have renewed our focus on marketing Greater Phoenix with an emphasis on positive business news and opportunity. We’ve created a new Web site called opportunitygreaterphoenix.com that showcases the region and unique opportunities businesses and people have here. Next, we are organizing executive missions to Washington, D.C., and New York, where we’ll meet with leaders who can help influence positive economic activity for Arizona. And of course, we’ll continue to work hard to bring solar and renewable energy companies to Arizona under the new incentive legislation passed last summer. It will be a busy year and we are committed to doing all we can to improve the Valley’s economy and bring jobs to this region.