Tag Archives: phoenix area

Home Prices

Soaring Phoenix Area Home Prices Finally Slow Down

Phoenix-area home prices, which had been sharply and steadily rising since last September, finally went down a little this summer.

A new report from the W. P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University reveals the numbers for Maricopa and Pinal counties, as of July:

  • The median single-family home price dropped slightly between June and July this year – down less than 1%.
  • The median single-family home price was still up almost 31% from last July.
  • Sales of bank-owned homes plunged 73% from July 2011 to July 2012, with fewer foreclosures coming into the pipeline.

The median single-family home price in Maricopa and Pinal counties in July was $149,000, very slightly down from $150,000 in June. Even though this was the first monthly median drop since last summer, the report’s author, Mike Orr, does not think it indicates a reversal.

“This small drop is likely a reflection of both the normal, annual summer slowdown in the Phoenix-area housing market and a natural pause in the soaring prices we’ve seen here,” explains Orr, director of the Center for Real Estate Theory and Practice at the W. P. Carey School of Business. “I expect it will continue through August, but prices are likely to resume their upward direction in late September or October.”

The median single-family price was still up 30.7% from last July, when it was at $114,000. Realtors will note the average price per square foot went up 21.1% from last July. The median price for townhomes and condos was up 17.3% from $69,900 to $82,000.

Activity in the market remains limited by the amount of homes available for sale, with the number of transactions down 7.7% from July last year. As of Aug. 1, the supply of homes for sale — excluding those already under contract – was down 26% from the same time last year. Many homeowners still don’t want to sell, since their homes are worth much less than when they bought them.

Also, so-called “distressed supply,” the number of homes up for short sale or that recently went through foreclosure, went down a whopping 69% from last July to this July, meaning fewer bargains are out there.

“Seventy-eight percent of the existing homes available for sale are priced above $150,000,” says Orr. “That means competition for the other 22% is fierce. Most homes priced below even $250,000 are attracting a large number of offers within a short time, and offers often exceed the asking price. Ordinary home buyers are still struggling to compete with investors who offer all-cash, with no appraisal required.”

In fact, 54% of the homes that sold for $150,000 or less in July went to all-cash buyers. The low supply in this range has many people turning to new-home construction. As a result, new construction permits went up a massive 87% from July 2011 to July 2012. New-home sales went up 58% year-over-year.

Completed foreclosures for both single-family homes and townhome/condos went up 13% from June to July. However, Orr believes this is the beginning of a short, passing wave that came from the February signing of a legal settlement between the states and five of the nation’s largest lenders. Foreclosure starts — homeowners receiving notice their lenders may foreclose in 90 days – went down 14% from June to July.

“Most lenders are strongly encouraging homeowners facing financial hardship to use short sales as a preferred alternative to foreclosure,” Orr says. “Consequently, we have seen single-family short sales grow by 12 percent over the last year, while foreclosure rates have declined sharply.”

Almost all parts of the Phoenix area have seen prices go up since last summer. Even the high-end areas of Scottsdale and Paradise Valley have had average prices per square foot go up 9 and 12%, respectively. The only areas still showing a decline in average price per square foot are Rio Verde and Sun Lakes.

Orr’s full report, including statistics, charts and a breakdown by different areas of the Valley, can be viewed at wpcarey.asu.edu/finance/real-estate/upload/FullReport201208.pdf.

More analysis is also available from knowWPCarey, the business school’s online resource and newsletter, at knowwpcarey.com/index.cfm?cid=13.

home prices

Phoenix-Area Home Prices Continue To Soar

Phoenix-area home prices have been zooming up for months, and the streak continued in May. However, a new report from the W. P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University takes a closer look at the short supply of available houses, an increase in foreclosures, and a possible leveling off of skyrocketing home prices this summer.

The report on Maricopa and Pinal counties reveals:

  • The median single-family home price went up more than 32 percent from May 2011 to May 2012.
  • The overall housing supply dropped by 50 percent in the same time frame.
  • The number of completed foreclosures of single-family homes and condos combined went up 18 percent from April to May.

The median single-family home price jumped 32.4 percent from May 2011 to May 2012. It went from $111,000 up to $147,000. At the same time, the median townhouse/condo price soared 37.3 percent, from $69,900 to $96,000, and the average price per-square-foot shot up more than 22 percent. Prices have been increasing since they reached a low point in September 2011.

The report’s author, Mike Orr, says high demand and low supply remain the dominant factors in the Phoenix-area housing market. For example, the number of active listings for single-family homes without a contract in the greater Phoenix area was down to 8,550 as of June 1. Fierce competition for available homes has continued to push home prices up.

“Most houses below $250,000 priced realistically are attracting large numbers of offers in a short time, and many exceed the asking price,” says Orr, director of the Center for Real Estate Theory and Practice at the W. P. Carey School of Business. “We recently saw a Chandler home get 84 offers and a Glendale home receive 95. The Glendale house closed within four weeks for 17 percent above asking price. Needless to say, this is not something we would see in a normal market.”

The amount of overall sales activity is down, due to the short supply. The number of single-family home sales fell 5.8 percent compared to last May. Orr says things are especially quiet in the luxury and active-adult sectors of the market, where there’s less demand. But new-home sales are up 57 percent over last May, as buyers look for alternatives to the intense competition for existing homes under $250,000.

Orr says, “Contractors are trying to keep up with the new construction demand by supplementing a small skilled labor pool. They’re attempting to lure away competitors’ employees with higher pay and to attract back foremen who’ve gone on to other housing markets or industries.”

Investors are also playing an influential role in the area. In May, almost 28 percent of home purchases were made by investors. Orr says the average area home buyer faces an uphill battle against those offering all cash, instead of a financed offer requiring an appraisal. He does believe, though, that things are about to calm down somewhat.

“Prices gained further strength over the last month, but I suspect they cannot continue to rise at the extremely fast rate we experienced this spring,” says Orr. “This rate can’t be sustained long term, and the most likely time for prices to stabilize is during the hot summer months of June through September.”

At the same time, foreclosures are unfortunately going up in the area. The new report shows completed foreclosures of single-family homes and townhome/condos combined went up 18 percent from April to May this year. However, Orr doesn’t see this as reason to worry yet.

“Completed foreclosures were still down 52 percent year-over-year in May,” he explains. “Since the signing of a legal agreement between the states and five of the nation’s largest lenders, we have seen a slight uptick in the rate of foreclosure notices, but we are still a long way below the peak levels of March 2009.”

The areas of the Valley most affected by the foreclosure crisis are now seeing the biggest surge in home prices. For example, El Mirage, Maricopa, San Tan Valley, Glendale and Apache Junction are doing much better. The areas least affected by foreclosures have seen home prices improving slowest. Still, some are moving into positive territory, such as Cave Creek, Fountain Hills and Sun City. The only areas still showing a decline in average home prices per-square-foot over the past year are Eloy, Paradise Valley, Rio Verde, Sun City West and Sun Lakes.

Orr’s full report, including home prices, statistics, charts and a breakdown by different areas of the Valley, can be viewed at http://wpcarey.asu.edu/finance/real-estate/upload/Full-Report-201206.pdf. More analysis is also available from knowWPCarey, the business school’s online resource and newsletter, at http://knowwpcarey.com.

Phoenix-Area Housing Market

Short Supply, Rising Prices In The Phoenix Area Housing Market

Are we actually seeing the start of a housing shortage in the Phoenix area? A new report from the W. P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University reveals some surprising information for Maricopa and Pinal counties, as of February:

  • Housing supply was down a huge 42 percent from the year before.
  • Foreclosures were down 52 percent from last February.
  • Single-family-home prices have been on the rise since September.

Perhaps most notably, the report’s author, Mike Orr, says some realtors are actually starting to call around to ask people whether they would consider selling homes in desirable neighborhoods.

“Supply is tight, in a pretty extreme way, and it looks likely to stay that way for months,” says Orr, director of the Center for Real Estate Theory and Practice at the W. P. Carey School of Business. “The inventory of single-family homes for sale under $250,000 (without a contract already) is less than 25 days of supply. This is highly unusual and signals a market heavily out of balance, with far more buyers than sellers. It’s now becoming a matter of how much of a price increase will get people to start putting their homes back on the market.”

The median price for a single-family home sold in the Phoenix area in February was up 8.3 percent from last year. This includes new-home sales, and it’s an increase from $115,000 to $124,500. Realtors will note the average price per-square-foot went up 4.1 percent.

February is the start of the selling season that normally runs through June. Orr expects to see lots of activity and even “frantic attempts” to buy over the next three months. This is likely to push prices even higher.

“One thing that could slow this down is appraisals,” explains Orr. “That’s because appraisers are still looking at prices from up to three months ago, and they may be reluctant to write appraisals that match the now-higher market value. This will continue to give all-cash buyers a big advantage over those who need to secure a loan.”

Orr adds that foreclosures and short sales continue to exert a strong influence on the market. They represent about 20 percent of total sales. New home sales make up only 6 percent of the total market.

Buyers from outside Arizona account for 26 percent of the transactions. Also, despite the positive momentum, Orr emphasizes there are still many Phoenix area homeowners with loans exceeding the market value of their houses.

Cactus League - Spring Training is Back

Cactus League Baseball Is Back In Arizona

February in Arizona means two things – gorgeous weather and spring training baseball.

What initially began as minor league exhibition game in the early 1900’s has evolved into Major League Baseball’s conglomerate of Spring Training stadiums within the Phoenix area.  A long-­standing tradition for the Grand Canyon State, MLB’s Spring Training begins again later this month as the Cactus League kicks off its 65th season in Arizona.

Salt River Fields, Colorado Rockies - Image Provided by Flickr

As spring reveals itself, so do players from a four‐month baseball hiatus. More than 15 teams will compete within the coming months in 10 local fields — drawing over 1.5 million spectators, according to a 2009 study of the games.

2011 has the same expectation of past years and brings out potential  collegiate and minor league players the opportunity to showcase their skills, in hopes of generating talk around Major League management for upward promotion to the “big leagues.”

RBI’s, home runs, batting average, chin music and injury reports reenter the vocabulary of sports talk radio hosts and give vitality back to baseball geeks nation.

With several stadium locations throughout the Phoenix area, it’s easy to catch at least one of these 15 teams at a fraction of regular season ticket prices. With lawn seating available from $5, it’s a perfect excuse to call in sick from work and plan a family picnic in Arizona’s weather.

Diamondback News

Coming off a dismal 65 – 97 season, the Arizona Diamondbacks enter 2011 with hopes to compete with NL West rivals, 2010 World Champions San Francisco Giants.

Recent management addition and legendary Los Angeles Dodger Kirk Gibson has full control of the team this year and brings a sense of urgency to the Diamondbacks office.

Reds Pitcher Aroldis Chapman - Image Provided by Flickr

Flashback to 1988; the Dodgers won their fifth title in the City of Angels and have yet to repeat since as the Dodgers later went on to defeat the Oakland Athletics 4-1 in the series. Gibson and the 1988 Dodger team were underdogs to say the least, disproving the expectation of failure.

Professional sports, now more than ever, demands pure physicality in a 162 game season.

Since the D-Backs World Series run in 2001, D-Back fans have been subjected to playing and management decisions far below par. It takes as much a mental toll as a physical one — and Gibson encapsulates experience in both. Gibson’s presence in Diamondback management will hopefully spark the same inspiration as it did in 1988.

Everyone begins the season undefeated and has the ability to prove sports analysts and naysayers wrong. Near rock bottom at all-statistical production, the D‐Backs need inspiration and who better to give it to them than manager Kirk  “Gibby” Gibson. Let’s hope Gibson can effectively command his troops  — or at least clean off the shame of 2010.

For more tickets and schedule information on Spring Training in the Valley, visit cactusleague.com

medianpricenotfullstory

Median Price Not Full Story For Phoenix Market

The median price for resale homes in the Phoenix area has been edging up for several months. Does this signal that the market is approaching normalcy? Jay Butler, associate professor of real estate and author of the Realty Studies report from the W. P. Carey School of Business, talks about the factors affecting median price, including the still high number of foreclosure-related sales. It’s tempting to declare a market up-tilt based only on median price, he says, but because of that foreclosure activity, Phoenix is still far from a normal market. (13:09)

unemployment rate was unchanged at 9.6 percent after the economy lost 54,000 jobs in August

Nation’s Unemployment Rate Holds Steady

The nation’s unemployment rate was unchanged at 9.6 percent after the economy lost 54,000 jobs in August.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported today that government employment fell as a result of shedding 114,000 temporary workers hired for the Census. Private-sector payroll employment rose by 67,000.

“The August jobs report, albeit tepid, does show the economy is holding steady, despite speculation to the contrary,” says Frank Armendariz, Arizona regional director at Manpower. “This is consistent with what I’m seeing in the market, as well as what the quarterly Manpower Employment Outlook Survey (MEOS) has been reporting for the past three quarters. Our quarterly MEOS survey measures employers’ intentions to increase or decrease the number of employees in their work force during the next quarter, and we’ve seen consistent results in our Phoenix-area survey this year.”

According to the BLS, the number of jobless Americans stands at 14.9 million. The number of long-term unemployed (those who have been out of work 27 weeks or more) declined last month by 323,000 to 6.2 million. In August, 42 percent of the nation’s unemployed had not worked for 27 weeks or more.

Government employment fell by 121,000, largely due to the loss of Census 2010 workers. Total private employment continued a rising trend. The BLS reports that since its most recent low in December 2009, private-sector employment has risen by 763,000.

“The fact that we’ve seen eight straight months of private-sector job growth is very encouraging and is consistent with what I’m seeing — employers are continuing to hire each quarter, but in limited quantities, with a majority of firms holding steady with their current labor force,” Armendariz says. “This is an improvement from last year when we were seeing mass layoffs and very little hiring.”

Employment gains were seen in health care, mining and construction. The manufacturing sector lost jobs, while employment in retail trade was essentially unchanged.

“The recession brought about huge changes in the labor market in a very short period of time,” Armendariz says. “Now we’re seeing new jobs come back very slowly. At the current pace, it will take years for us to get back to pre-recession employment levels. As a result, the limited labor market growth we’re experiencing feels almost imperceptible in comparison to the free fall we took in the wrong direction last year.”

Local First Arizona Champions Buying Locally - AZ Business Magazine June 2010

Local First Arizona Champions Buying Locally

Today, people generally recognize the importance of shopping locally and supporting our region’s independently owned and operated businesses. But that wasn’t always the case. As recently as seven years ago, the concept was nearly unheard of in Arizona. But in 2003, Kimber Lanning, of the independently owned and operated Stinkweeds music store, started Local First Arizona, then called Arizona Chain Reaction, in an effort to bring the community together and support each other.

“People weren’t really connecting,” says Lanning, who lives in and loves the Phoenix area.

That love of Phoenix compelled her to start a crusade for local, independent store owners. That crusade turned into Local First Arizona, a statewide organization aimed at helping to strengthen local communities in Arizona, bring them together and encourage them to support one another. And she did it one person at a time.

“I just started knocking on doors,” Lanning says of her start-up approach to educating local residents about the importance of celebrating the uniqueness of independently owned businesses in their very own neighborhoods versus the chain stores.

In 2006, she applied for 501(c)3 nonprofit status and changed the name from Arizona Chain Reaction to Local First Arizona to better reflect the goal and mission of the organization — to help people understand the benefits of buying locally and to build a better sense of community.

“I think neighborhoods are finally realizing how important it is (to buy locally),” she says. “It’s like it finally just dawned on us that we can create diverse and unique cities … we can control this.”

It is part of Local First’s mission to educate people on the facts about the real benefits of shopping locally. Studies show that for every $100 spent in a locally owned business, approximately $42 stays in the state. If that same $100 is spent in a chain store, just $13 of it stays right here.

In 2008, Lanning created the Small Wonders maps, pocket-sized guides — one each for Phoenix, Tempe and Scottsdale — that list unique shopping and dining destinations in the three defined areas. Lanning printed 75,000 copies of the Phoenix version, and downloadable versions of the maps also are available at www.localfirstaz.com. She says the buzz around the maps has been incredible.

“They’ve really taken off,” Lanning says. “Now is the best time to promote independent businesses.”

Indeed that remains one of Lanning’s biggest challenges, managing the rapid (“almost too rapid”) growth of her concept, along with securing funding. But she hasn’t let the latter stop her.

“With any new concept, it’s difficult to secure funding,” she says. “So I’m running it like an entrepreneur would, rather than relying on grants.”
Local First currently has 1,800 members, but Lanning has high hopes for the future.

“As I’ve gotten more involved, I’ve realized things we need,” she says.

She hopes to develop awareness for the adaptive reuse of existing buildings to ensure sustainability, increase business-to-business support, grow membership to 5,000, and develop a diversified staff that can offer programs, benefits and support for the state’s locally owned businesses.
Lanning, whose very own personal business, Stinkweeds, resides in the Central Corridor, is thrilled as she talks about the recent growth and development in the Downtown area.

“I am overjoyed to watch the city growing into itself,” she says. “It’s phenomenal. I feel like I’m in the right place at the right time.”

But Doug MacKenzie, director of communications at the Greater Phoenix Convention and Visitors Bureau, thinks it’s more than just a little luck. He credits Local First and Lanning with driving the unique farm-to-table food product and for helping Phoenix become a culinary destination in its own right — complete with amazing farmer’s markets and unique events. One such event was the recent Devoured Culinary Classic at the Phoenix Art Museum, which Local First spearheaded and co-sponsored.

MacKenzie says that due to efforts by Local First, locals and visitors to the Phoenix area have the opportunity to “really experience the authentic and native foods of the region and the Southwest. Local First is great for promoting our culinary scene.”

More than just promoting local dining establishments, Local First also seeks to bring together communities, neighborhoods and people — one door at a time.

www.localfirstaz.com

Arizona Business Magazine June 2010

GPEC Profile: Craig Robb, Executive Vice President And Director Of Finance And Administration, National Bank Of Arizona

Craig Robb
Executive vice president and director of finance and administration, National Bank of Arizona

With a 17-year career in land development prior to joining National Bank of Arizona seven years ago, Craig Robb was a natural to become an active member of the Greater Phoenix Economic Council.

Robb, executive vice president and director of finance and administration for the bank, is in his first year on the GPEC board of directors. He also serves on the GPEC Next Committee, which reviews possible projects and initiatives before forwarding them to the board.

But it was his two-plus years on GPEC’s Community Development Committee that enabled him to draw extensively from his combined experience in real estate and banking. Comprised primarily of real estate brokers and developers, with some bankers, the panel focused on shovel-ready projects as the construction industry’s fortunes plunged.

One of the areas his committee worked on involves sustainability and LEED certification.

“GPEC maintains a strong effort to identify programs and buildings that are more attractive to potential companies coming into the Phoenix area,” Robb says. “It’s an effort to match companies to a building that is LEED certified and sustainable, whether it’s office or industrial. That’s very attractive to a company that might be interested in relocating here.”

The bank’s relationship with GPEC is a two-way street.

“We are glad to be a contributor to GPEC, which is absolutely the right organization for promoting Greater Phoenix,” Robb says, “especially how difficult it is now, with the competition we face in a national and global economy. On a reciprocal basis, we have benefited. GPEC has given us a greater interest in sustainability.”

The bank, which celebrated its 25th anniversary in 2009, decided to upgrade some of its nearly 80 branches that were facing energy challenges.

“We started our own effort to see what we could do to create a more sustainable platform for our own buildings,” Robb says.

About the same time in late 2008, Robb, through a GPEC event, met the CEO of Solar City.

“That blossomed forward, and we ended up with a $1.5 million installation at our Biltmore location, improving our energy efficiency,” he says. “In addition, the bank has committed $25 million to provide a lease program that allows individuals to lease solar equipment for their homes.

“We made our contribution to GPEC, and as a result here is a relationship that has blossomed into well over a $50 million investment related to solar.”

www.nbarizona.com


Arizona Business Magazine

February 2010

The Valley’s Health Care Industry Held Its Own During The Recession And Looks Toward Expansion In The Recovery

In an economic downturn that has plunged Arizona into its worst financial crisis in decades, one sector of the state’s economy that remains vibrant and growing is the health care industry. Consider recent developments driven primarily by population growth: the Creighton University partnership with St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center; the newly opened Cardon Children’s Medical Center, a Banner Health facility in Mesa; the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center scheduled to open in Gilbert in late 2011; and a major expansion of Phoenix Children’s Hospital.

The academic affiliation between Omaha-based Creighton and St. Joseph’s will bring nearly 30 percent of Creighton’s medical students to Phoenix for two years of clinical studies. Since 2005, Creighton has sent relatively few medical school students to St. Joseph’s for one-month rotations. Under the new agreement, 42, third-year Creighton students will arrive at St. Joseph’s in 2012 and in 2013, for a total of 84 students on the new campus, to be known as the Creighton University School of Medicine at St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center. Creighton will provide an associate dean and several administrative support staff, but faculty instructors will be St. Joseph’s doctors and other medical personnel.

Linda Hunt, service area president of Catholic Healthcare West Arizona, president of St. Joseph’s and chair of the Greater Phoenix Economic Council’s Healthcare Leadership Council, says the goal is to retain many of the students in Arizona for residency and eventually have them set up practices here.

“We’re a large population and when you compare us to the rest of the country we have to import our physicians,” Hunt says. “We need the capacity to educate and to care for more of the population.”

The Cardon Children’s Medical Center, which opened Nov. 9, provides comprehensive pediatric care for children. The facility has 248 beds and works with 225 physicians. Top specialties include cancer, neurology, emergency services, surgery, and a level-III neonatal intensive care unit.

“Children often need special help coping with acute and chronic illness,” says Peter Fine, Banner Health president and CEO. “We know Cardon Children’s Medical Center will make a difference in the lives of countless children and their families. Its opening will offer a new option for outstanding pediatric care that is clearly needed by the Valley’s growing population.”

Meanwhile, the University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center joined forces with Banner Health on Dec. 1, launching construction of a facility intended to deliver an unprecedented level of cancer care to patients in Arizona. Along with treating cancer patients, M. D. Anderson, based in Houston, also offers access to therapeutic clinical research exploring novel treatments.

Fine calls the relationship with M.D. Anderson “a major milestone in the vision of our two organizations to provide access to a new level of cancer care in Arizona.”

The $107 million, 76-bed center will be a 120,000 square foot, three-story building focusing on outpatient services, including physician clinics, medical imaging, radiation oncology, infusion therapy and many support services. Inpatients will be treated on two floors inside Banner Gateway Medical Center.

“M.D. Anderson is not and will not be something similar to what exists in the Phoenix market today,” Fine says. “We are bringing the No. 1 cancer center in the country to Arizona and to have them run it as closely as is possible. There will be significant amounts of automation tying in all their clinicians in this marketplace to clinicians in their Houston campus. For research purposes, protocol purposes, they will in essence be one clinical business on two campuses.”

In 2008, Phoenix Children’s Hospital broke ground on a $588-million expansion that includes an 11-story patient tower scheduled for completion by 2012. As of December 2009, Phase I marked its halfway point, was on-budget and on-schedule. The project will increase the number of its licensed beds to 626 from 345.

Bob Meyer, president and CEO of Phoenix Children’s Hospital, says research indicates Maricopa County has more than 1 million children today and by 2025, an additional 500,000 to 700,000 youngsters will be living in the Greater Phoenix area.

“If you believe those numbers,” Meyer says, “deficits in pediatric capacity are astounding. Estimates are that we will be short 800 pediatric beds by 2025, and short about 400 pediatric specialists.”

Another key reason for the expansion, Meyer says, is that the existing hospital building, which was built in the late 1960s, does not have the floor-to-ceiling height to accommodate today’s newer technology.

Dr. William Crist, vice president of health affairs at the University of Arizona, says the ongoing expansion projects in Greater Phoenix really are thoughtful plans for growth and development of service for a city that’s expanding markedly — even though that growth has leveled off because of the recession.

Crist cites the aging baby boomer generation as the reason for an increasing need in expanded adult medical care.

“Potentially, most cancer occurs in older individuals,” Crist says. “The aging of our population is made possible by advances in health care. It keeps you alive long enough to develop chronic illnesses.”

www.creighton.edu | www.stjosephs-phx.org | www.bannerhealth.com | www.mdanderson.org | www.phoenixchildrens.com | www.arizona.edu


Arizona Business Magazine

February 2010

money in vice

The Economic Recovery Begins In 2009, But It Will Be Slow Going

The national and state economies are expected to start feeling the effects of a recovery during the last quarter of 2009. However, the recovery over the next year will be slow, with unemployment continuing to rise and economic growth anemic at best. Meanwhile, the state’s expenditures are rising, even as revenue continues to fall, setting the stage for future budget cuts and an expected tax increase.

That was the consensus forecast unveiled by top economic experts from the W.P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University and the Arizona governor’s office at the annual Economic Outlook Luncheon on May 20. Lee McPheters, director of the JPMorgan Chase Economic Outlook Center at W.P. Carey and editor of Economy@W.P. Carey, provided an overview of current economic conditions on the state and national level, and offered a forecast for the coming year.
“The economy is going to show some signs of recovery in the last part of 2009, but the way I like to look at this is that lots of our economic indicators will still be underwater in a sense — they just won’t be as far underwater,” he said. “We’ll probably see positive growth in GDP, we will see job losses getting smaller, but there will still be job losses. There will still be people claiming unemployment insurance and, of course, unemployment rates will still be going up.
“It’s going to be a deep, sort of U-shaped recovery and 2011 will probably be a pretty good year of job growth,” McPheters added. 
In the meantime, job losses will continue to mount. In March, with an over-the-year employment decline of 7.1 percent and 136,000 jobs lost, the Valley just edged out Detroit as the weakest large metro labor market in the nation. And even as the economy begins to recover, the Greater Phoenix area will still see its labor market contract by 1 percent in 2010, according to McPheters.
Nationally, McPheters stressed that while the current recession has been painful, it still is not on par with the Great Depression. The Great Depression was marked by four consecutive years of decreases in Gross Domestic Product (GDP), while the current recession is expected to result in four consecutive quarters of decrease in inflation-adjusted GDP. In fact, in the first year of the recession, the national GDP actually increased by 1.1 percent.
“During 2008, the first year of the recession, you would expect that the GDP would be decreasing,” he said. “Well, one of the factors holding it up was exports. Exports continued strong in the United States through 2008.”
This year, however, exports are expected to drop by 10 percent. That’s just one example of how the national and state economies will continue to struggle as the recovery begins to take hold. Another example is the expected freefall in the commercial real estate market, especially in Arizona.
“Commercial is the next shoe to drop and we have seen this pattern before,” McPheters said. “Even as you see residential (construction) begin to pick up, I think you can expect that commercial building is going to be very, very weak all the way through 2010 and probably 2011, because what we need to see is population growth come back and job growth to come back. There’s no point in building retail space and office space if the jobs are not there and the consumer is not coming out to shop.”
And it is consumers, who account for 71 percent of GDP, who really hold the key to the economic recovery.
“The consumer is the only part of this economy that can bring us back,” McPheters said. “Consumers are not going to come back into the game until home prices stop falling, until the stock market stabilizes, until they see unemployment rates have peaked out and job losses start to get smaller and smaller. And the consumer has to have confidence to buy, and believe it or not, the consumer has to back off of their inclination to save their money.”
In March, the savings rate as a percent of disposable income was 4.2 percent, up from 2.6 percent six months earlier. While increased savings are considered a good thing in robust economic times, a pullback by consumers as an economy tanks can have devastating effects. McPheters pointed out that for each 1 percent increase in the savings rate, approximately $100 billion are being pulled out of the consumer-spending stream.
However, McPheters expressed confidence that the very calamity that sent our state and national economies reeling will eventually add to Arizona’s attractiveness to new residents and businesses — falling home prices.
“Housing prices have now returned to the traditional level, where Arizona housing prices are now more affordable than the national average,” he said. “In 2005 and 2006, we had come to the point where we were one of the least affordable markets. That has turned around and it has turned around very quickly. Of course that has been very painful.”

Dennis Hoffman, director of the L. William Seidman Research Institute at W.P. Carey, agreed with McPheters, adding that he believes the state’s economic rebound will be strong.

“This of course is the big question: What kind of bounce will take place? Now, I’ll have to say that the dramatic shakeout in prices in housing, while it has been absolutely disastrous for a number of folk and put a lot of pressure in a lot of different places, it might set us up for a more robust recovery than I would have thought six to nine months ago,” he said. “The thinking is really, very, very simple; an attractive attribute of Arizona has historically been great climate, affordable housing and a place to get a job. That third aspect really doesn’t exist right now, but it could exist if our economy recovers at a little faster pace.”
In the economic downturns of the past four decades, Arizona has bounced back strongly, and Hoffman is confident history will repeat itself, especially if the state and Valley can re-create the environments that people from around the country have found so attractive.

However, a major wrench in making the state attractive again is Arizona’s current budget crunch. In fiscal year 2009, the state’s budget gap stands at $1.6 billion. In fiscal year 2010, that’s expected to almost double to $3 billion dollars. As the economy has worsened, unemployment has soared to almost 8 percent, foreclosures have skyrocketed and businesses have closed their doors. As a result, billions of dollars in revenue from income, property, sales and business taxes have evaporated. Conversely the need for state services has exploded.

“We’re really seeing the effects of the downturn in the economy, both in terms of state revenues — our collections are down at a very significant rate — and likewise, our caseloads are up at a very significant rate, because more of our citizens are in need of services,” said Eileen Klein, director of the Arizona Governor’s Office of Strategic Planning and Budgeting, adding that in the past two months alone the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System (AHCCCS) has enrolled 50,000 people.
Hoffman pointed out that in the past, $48 to $50 out of every $1,000 of personal income had gone into the state’s general fund.

Arizona State Seal

A Quarter Century Of Wisdom Points To The Right Solution

In 1982, I was beginning my first term in Arizona’s House of Representatives. After years of spending increases, our state was suffering an economic slowdown. Recovery was just around the corner.

In 1984, Ronald Reagan was elected to his second term as president of the United States, the federal government announced that it would build an orbiting space station, and the Phoenix area was one year away from receiving its first deliveries of Central Arizona Project water.

In other words, the more things change, the more they stay the same.

Yes, we are a different state today than we were a quarter century ago.

Our population has doubled from 3.06 million to 6.8 million.

Per capita income has risen 256 percent, from $13,866 in 1984 to $32,953 today.

The world may be suffering the symptoms of an under-the-weather economy, but citizens from high-tax and high-regulation states will continue to move to Arizona, just as they have for the past 25 years. They will come because of our freedom-loving attitudes, our incredible business and environmental climate, and a commitment to nurturing opportunity.

However, since we have ignored history over the past few years, we must re-live the lessons of previous cycles. Once again, after stumbling through several years of free-spending fostered by a previous administration, Arizona must bring spending back to reality.

This is why I offer a five-point plan to cure what ails us:

  • Cut spending as much as feasible.
  • Don’t create or expand programs.
  • Stop treating one-time windfalls as permanent revenue. Even the feds must stop printing money eventually, so don’t think cash will keep flowing out of Washington.
  • Modernize our tax structure. Let’s get spending under control by 2012. Then let’s renovate our tax system to foster well-paying, sustainable jobs.
  • We must be responsible. The previous administration spent too much, and we must pay the bills, even if it leads to temporary tax hikes that automatically expire in three-to-four years.

Some think our political climate has changed. To those people I say, the more things change, the more we need the wisdom of some of the best political minds from the 20th century: Ronald Reagan and Barry Goldwater. They advocated:

  • Keeping taxes reasonable.
  • Limiting government intrusion.
  • Encouraging opportunity.
  • Creating prosperity.

Back in 1984-85, for the first time in state history, Arizona officially became a Republican state. We tended to elect conservative Republicans for decades, but many rural and blue-collar Democrats re-registered and pushed my party over the top.

When I became secretary of state in 1998, I watched a national trend away from political affiliation, which made it look like GOP domination would erode. As of April 1, 2009, our 3.1 million registered voters were split into three semi-equal groups. About 36.8 percent are Republicans, 33.8 percent registered as Democrats and 28.5 percent are not affiliated with either party.

Voters may be disenchanted with both parties, but they still love freedom, want limited government intrusion in their lives, and place their faith in the wisdom of Reagan and Goldwater.

The evidence is clear that Arizonans remain as committed as ever to limited government. This is why, come 2010, I am confident that our state will continue to follow the path blazed by Reagan and Goldwater by trusting sustainable, conservative solutions that realistically and responsibly address Arizona’s financial crisis.

As The Valley And State’s Hospitality Industry Has Grown So Has Its Contribution To The Economy

As The Valley And State’s Hospitality Industry Has Grown So Has Its Contribution To The Economy

Tourism is a vibrant and diverse industry, and I have been fortunate to be part of it for the past 25 years. This exciting industry encompasses culture, history, natural wonders, state parks, sports, resorts, spas, restaurants and shopping. And it’s supported by a variety of other industries such as laundry services, food services and transportation — all of which help to keep Arizona’s economy moving forward. As one of the state’s major economic generators, contributions by the travel and tourism industry have been immense. In 2007, more than 35 million visitors traveled to the Grand Canyon State and contributed $19.3 billion to the state’s economy. Additionally, tourism has generated millions in tax revenue and has employed directly and indirectly thousands of residents. 

Twenty-five years ago, tourism wasn’t nearly as lucrative. There were fewer than 20,000 hotel rooms throughout the Valley, and no spas. Visitors came to Arizona because of its scenic beauty and outdoor adventures. But the Valley, more often than not, served as a gateway to other Arizona communities and attractions. Phoenix was rarely seen as the “main” attraction for a family vacation. In 1984, Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport had only two terminals available for travelers. The freeway infrastructure consisted mainly of the I-10 and I-17 freeways. And the Phoenix Suns were the only major professional sports team playing in the Valley.

However, because of the dynamic growth and development of the Valley, we have been able to greatly expand our tourism marketing efforts. In addition to the state’s signature beauty, outdoor adventures and Wild West history, we now market arts and culture, culinary opportunities, resorts with spas, and plenty of great shopping.

What the Valley now offers has helped define the Phoenix area and Arizona as premier travel destinations. To accommodate the growing number of domestic and international travelers, the airport has added Terminal 4, increasing passenger traffic to 40,000 travelers annually. The addition of the loops 101 and 202 has eased traffic, and the Valley now boasts 55,000 hotel rooms. The new Phoenix Convention Center has more than tripled in size, expanding from 300,000 square feet to an incredible 1 million square feet, allowing for more conventions to take place. 

The Phoenix Suns now have plenty of company — the Arizona Cardinals, the Arizona Diamondbacks and the Phoenix Coyotes — that bring visitors to the state. We have also become a featured destination on the national sports scene by hosting two Super Bowls, Cactus League spring training, the FBR Open and the Fiesta Bowl, including the Bowl Championship Series.

While we can be proud of the way tourism has evolved, like many other industries we have been hit with challenges. As a result of the struggling economy, people are traveling less. The unfortunate misconception about corporate meetings and events has had a negative impact on the industry, as well. However, it’s important to understand that although people are traveling less they are traveling closer to home, giving us opportunities to promote the wonders of Arizona to our own residents and neighbors. 

The tourism industry is resilient and will continue to be so. It is the only export industry that drives revenue to all 15 Arizona counties, and is second only to microelectronics in generating earnings that benefit Arizona’s residents. The earnings generated from tourism are spread throughout the state and have shown consistent growth, helping to create a stabilizing effect on the Arizona economy. It’s vital to our economy to continue promoting Arizona as a vacation destination.

We are fortunate to live in such an incredibly diverse state with breathtaking scenery, culture and heritage, sports, fine dining and shopping. It’s what people from thousands of miles away want to experience.

Energy Costs - AZ Business Magazine September 2008

Higher Energy Costs Are Forcing Valley Companies To Look For Alternatives

From the neighborhood car wash to a corporate behemoth such as US Airways, rising energy costs are forcing Valley businesses to search for alternatives to relieve the pressure on their bottom lines.


On a warm weekend morning in the Phoenix area, a bored but concerned car wash attendant asks the only motorist who pulls up for a cleaning: “Where is everybody?” He then answers his own question: “People aren’t driving as much and their cars aren’t getting as dirty.”

From airlines to car washes to supermarket chains, record-high gas prices are taking their toll, causing businesses to implement strategies aimed at trimming expenses and saving energy.

Alternatives, ranging from solar to wind to biodiesel, are becoming more attractive and cost-effective as utility bills and prices at the pump continue to squeeze the bottom line.

While US Airways made major news when it announced a broad range of steps to cut costs and generate revenue, the airline is by no means alone in its actions. Bashas’ Family of Stores is an example of supermarkets that are feeling the pinch of higher diesel fuel prices, and the trucking industry reports some haulers are considering dropping customers who are in outlying areas.

Even car washes, which depend entirely on customers’ driving habits, are seeing a decline in business. Brian O’Connor, owner of Arizona Auto Wash, with operations throughout the Valley and in Sedona, says his customers are coming in less frequently.

“Instead of once a week, maybe we see them every other week,” O’Connor says. “People are so sick of putting money into their cars. They’re changing oil every 10,000 miles instead of 3,000 miles.”

O’Connor and other gas retailers are victims of what he calls a double whammy. Retailers get 8-to-10-cents per gallon, regardless of the price. Back when gas was $1 a gallon, that was a 10 percent profit. At $4 a gallon, that’s only 2.5 percent.

In addition to hiking the air-conditioning a degree or so, O’Connor has employees check equipment regularly for leaky hose bibs and broken sprinkler heads to conserve water.

Conservation, whether of water, fuel or energy, comes in many forms. For example, there’s solar power. Leah Bushman of Dependable Solar Products in Tempe, acknowledges that businesses, in particular home builders, don’t opt for solar units because of the cost.

“They want to know how is it going to affect their pocketbook, what is the return on investment,” she says.

She tells of a California builder who found that equipping homes with solar units added $18,000 to the cost, even after rebates and incentives. But, those solar homes sold much faster than others in the development.

In addition, a “green” architect in the Valley is seeing more interest in solar energy, Bushman says. “Why? Because more people are aware that we have an energy crisis on our hands,” she says. “We don’t have cheap oil anymore, but we do have the solar technology and the sunshine.”

At Southwest Windpower in Flagstaff, Miriam Robbins, marketing director, says any business could benefit from the company’s system, which is installed directly into the electric grid and does not need batteries or additional backup. The cost of most systems, including installation, ranges from $12,000 to $18,000. Rebates are available.

“The amount of power you get depends on wind speed,” she says. “Larger retailers may be interested to not only help offset electric costs, but also to make it more of a green statement. It can be installed on top of a light pole in a parking lot.”

Rick Katt, an owner of AZ BioDiesel in the Valley, says any business with a large fleet of trucks that runs on diesel should consider biofuel.

“No modification to your vehicle is needed,” he says. “It’s 80 percent vegetable oil, your motor runs cooler in hot weather and it’s cheaper than regular diesel by about 50 to 75 cents a gallon. And it’s better for the environment.”

Kristy Nied, director of communications for Bashas’, says the soaring price of diesel fuel has made it even more difficult for the company to operate in a cost-efficient manner.

“We rely on diesel fuel for our fleet of 97, over-the-road, 18-wheelers that deliver groceries to our stores throughout the state,” she says.

Recently, Bashas’ installed a device on its diesel trucks and eight other trucks that reduces fuel consumption and emissions.

“We’re saving enough fuel to run our entire fleet for a week,” Nied says. “We’ve also achieved a 32 percent reduction in particulate emissions.”

Bashas’ is testing a work-at-home program for certain employees, rewarding those who carpool with gifts ranging from duffel bags to vacations, and giving employees who ride public buses for two months a $25 gift card for store items.

“We’ve seen the number of bus riders go up because of gas prices,” Nied says.

A business decision closely related to the price of gas was the discontinuation of Bashas’ “Groceries on the Go” service.

“The cost of fuel made it extremely difficult for us to offer delivery service at a reasonable fee,” Nied says.

During the hot summer months, Bashas’ encouraged stores to set thermostats 2 degrees higher than normal. The grocery chain also placed nightshades on open freezer cases to reduce energy consumption, and installed energy-efficient lighting in more than one-third of the stores. The goal is to retrofit the remaining stores by the end of next year, Nied says.

To cope with rising fuel costs, US Airways has plans to cut as many as 2,000 jobs and started charging passengers more for items such as drinks, choice seats and checked bags. In the second quarter, the carrier lost $567 million, even though revenue rose 3 percent to $3.26 billion. But that revenue was eaten up by fuel costs. A year ago, the company reported a profit of $263 million.

In announcing US Airways’ second quarter earnings, company Chairman and CEO Doug Parker said he expects the new fees to add $500 million to the airline’s coffers. However, that’s less than half of the $1.1 billion the company paid for fuel in the second quarter.

Industry sources estimate fuel costs for airlines have increased 80 percent over a year ago. Valerie Wunder, associate manager of media relations for US Airways, says the airline is estimating its fuel costs to be $2 billion more than last year.

She explains other moves to save fuel. They include replacing all service carts with ones that are 12 pounds lighter and, in the cockpits, replacing paper manuals with electronic flight bags and maintenance logbooks to remove about 100 pounds of weight on each flight.

“Our fuel-hedging program and fuel-conservation measures such as single-engine taxi, which saves an estimated 5.2 million gallons of fuel annually, and fuel-conserving winglets, which reduces drag and saves approximately 1 million gallons of jet fuel, also help us conserve fuel,” Wunder says.

Karen Rasmussen, president and CEO of the Arizona Trucking Association, says fuel prices led to a record number of trucker bankruptcies nationally in the first quarter of the year. The association has 353 members, including UPS, Bashas’ and Safeway.

“Truckers are struggling,” she says. “They’re doing everything in their power to reduce fuel consumption, such as limiting idle time and keeping tires properly inflated. But, when it’s 113 degrees and they’re in their sleeper cab taking a required break, they have to keep the A/C going.”

In many cases, truckers are installing governors to limit speed or have instituted a companywide policy of keeping speeds between 58 and 62 mph.

“Reducing speed reduces fuel use,” Rasmussen says. “Many companies are looking at markets or customers they won’t serve as part of an overall business plan. They’re sticking with their best customers, the ones that pay their bills on time.”

Fuel formerly was the second highest cost of doing business next to labor.

“Now, it’s the highest in many cases,” Rasmussen says.

The outlook?

“There’s not much to indicate we will get an improvement in fuel prices,” Rasmussen says.

“There are too many things on the global horizon indicating we will continue to have shortages of distillate, which is what diesel fuel is made from. There is a huge increase in demand overseas.”

Part of the problem is the weak dollar. U.S. firms are exporting more diesel fuel than ever.

“They can sell it for more overseas,” Rasmussen says. “Wouldn’t you?”

For more information about how Valley companies are combating high energy costs, visit the following websites:

bashas.com
usairways.com

dependablesolarproducts.com

windenergy.com
azbiodiesel.com

arizonatrucking.com

Arizona Business Magazine September 2008