Tag Archives: Sandra Watson

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ACA names Arizona Innovation Challenge semifinalists

The Arizona Commerce Authority (ACA) today announced 25 semifinalists in its Fall 2014 Arizona Innovation Challenge (AIC), a bi-annual business plan competition awarding $3 million annually to talented entrepreneurs.

Each year, the ACA awards – $1.5 million in the spring and $1.5 million in the fall – to the most qualified, innovative startups and early-stage companies. Recipients receive up to $250,000 in capital to grow their businesses, advancing innovation and technology commercialization opportunities in Arizona.

“We congratulate the forward-thinking entrepreneurs selected as our newest AIC semifinalists,” said Sandra Watson, President and CEO, Arizona Commerce Authority. “Arizona’s engagement with early-stage companies through its suite of targeted programs continues to spur growth, technology commercialization and capital investment within Arizona’s innovation ecosystem. With more than 1,200 applications received for the AIC since 2011, the program continues to be among the many opportunities available to innovators which have made Arizona a top hub for entrepreneurial activity and startup success.”

The 25 Fall 2014 Arizona Innovation Challenge Semifinalists include:

• Adosia, LLC, IT – Software, Tempe, AZ
• Allbound, IT – Software, Scottsdale, AZ
• Cactus Semiconductor, Advanced Manufacturing, Chandler, AZ
• CampusLogic, IT – Software, Gilbert, AZ
• Crowd Mics, IT – Software, Mesa, AZ
• Dermspectra, LLC, Bio & Life Sciences, Tucson, AZ
• Energy Conservation Mgmt., Cleantech/Renewable Energy, Scottsdale, AZ
• EZ Dump Commercial, Advanced Manufacturing, Phoenix, AZ
• HiringSolved, IT – Software, Chandler, AZ
• Iris PR Management, IT – Software, Phoenix, AZ
• Iron Horse Diagnostics, Inc., Bio & Life Sciences, Scottsdale, AZ
• MWI Laboratories, Advanced Materials, Tempe, AZ
• Next Alternative, Inc., Cleantech/Renewable Energy, Chandler, AZ
• Numa Tactical Eyewear, Advanced Materials, Phoenix, AZ
• NuvOx Pharma, Bio & Life Sciences, Tucson, AZ
• Park Genius, IT – Software, Tucson, AZ
• PoG Technologies, LLC, Cleantech/Renewable Energy, Peoria, AZ
• Pure Chat, IT – Software, Scottsdale, AZ
• RightBio Metrics, Bio & Life Sciences, Scottsdale, AZ
• Salutaris Medical Devices, Inc., Bio & Life Sciences, Tucson, AZ
• Sentinel Internet Systems, IT – Software, Phoenix, AZ
• Smart Service Desk, IT – Software, Chandler, AZ
• Spotlight Software, IT – Software, Peoria, AZ
• Universal Bio Mining, Bio & Life Sciences, Tucson, AZ
• Zero Shock Seating, Advanced Manufacturing, Chandler, AZ

A panel of expert judges evaluated 154 applications from the Fall 2014 AIC submitted by companies based in Arizona, California, Colorado, New Mexico, Ohio, West Virginia, and Virginia. The judges assessed each application on a set of criteria including technology potential, marketing strategy, quality of management team and economic impact. These companies represent high-value industry sectors that include IT software, IT hardware, bio and life sciences, cleantech/renewable energy, advanced materials, advanced manufacturing, and aerospace and defense.

Every applying company that meets the AIC’s eligibility requirements will receive constructive feedback generated from the rigorous online evaluation and scoring process. All semifinalists also will be considered for participation in Venture Ready, the ACA’s mentor program that connects early stage companies with high-level CEOs to further refine business plans and investor pitches.

The ACA will name its Fall 2014 Arizona Innovation Challenge finalists in early January and the winners later that same month.

economic development - 8 honored

APAC Customer Services’ expansion to create 1,100 jobs

APAC Customer Services, Inc., a leader in global customer care outsourcing solutions, in partnership with the Arizona Commerce Authority (ACA) and Tucson Regional Economic Opportunities, Inc. (TREO), announced Monday an expansion in Phoenix and Tucson that is expected to bring more than 1,100 jobs to Arizona’s Sun Corridor over the next three years.

Jack Jones, Chief Operating Office of Expert Global Solutions, Inc., APAC’s parent company, stated, “Having lived in the state of Arizona for a number of years, I am a big fan of the ‘Sun Corridor.’ Access to qualified and experienced customer service personnel, top educational institutions and great weather make the state an ideal place for us to grow.”

City of Tucson Mayor Jonathan Rothschild echoed Jones’ sentiments and recognized APAC’s long history and significant presence, “APAC has been a major employer in Southern Arizona for many years, currently employing nearly 2,000 of our citizens. We know every business has a choice of where to operate and the City of Tucson continues to make this a business-friendly climate for its existing employers to expand.”

“This is a positive step for Phoenix, Tucson and the entire Sun Corridor,” Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton said. “For our economy to grow, we must continue to work together as a region and as a state.”

During the first year, the partnership is expected to generate over 300 new jobs in Tucson – split between APAC’s two sites in the city – and an additional 135 jobs to its site in north Phoenix. Throughout the next two years, the state is expected to benefit from 669 additional jobs (382 in Tucson and 287 in Phoenix), bringing the overall three-year job creation total to over 1,100 jobs for Arizona.

“APAC is the global leader in its industry serving top brands around the world, and we thank the company for its continued commitment to Arizona as it undertakes its next phase of growth,” said Sandra Watson, President and CEO, Arizona Commerce Authority. “APAC’s investment and expansion in Phoenix and Tucson will create hundreds of professional services jobs for Arizonans across our state.”

Commenting on the growth, Joe Snell, President and CEO, TREO, stated, “State leaders, local officials and economic development partners joined together to deliver an important win for the economic recovery: nearly 700 new jobs here in Southern Arizona.”

“We’re pleased that APAC’s existing presence in the Sun Corridor mega-region continues to grow,” said Sharon Bronson, Chair, Pima County Board of Supervisors. “Tucson’s high-quality, bilingual workforce is a key competitive advantage in today’s global economy.”

APAC delivers tailored solutions to leading companies in many industries, including communications, education, financial services, government, healthcare, insurance, retail, technology, transportation and logistics, travel and hospitality and utilities. Headquartered in Illinois, APAC currently operates at the following locations in Arizona:

·       Tucson East: 1650 S. Research Loop, Tucson, AZ  85710
·       Tucson West: 2929 E. Corona Road, Tucson, AZ  85756
·       Phoenix: 20401 N. 29th Avenue, Phoenix, AZ  85027

In terms of the jobs that are coming to the state, Jones commented, “We’re excited about the opportunities we’re bringing to local communities. For us, it’s not simply about jobs. It’s about providing a chance for people to build a rewarding career and make a difference within our company.”

The new jobs created by this expansion are full-time positions that will work to support major clients. The positions will include both call center, leadership and support roles.

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Tractor Supply Company plans Arizona distribution center

Tractor Supply Company (NASDAQ: TSCO), the largest rural lifestyle retail store chain in the United States, announced Monday plans to build a new distribution center in Casa Grande, Ariz.

“The addition of a new distribution center in the Southwest is key to our western expansion strategy,” said Greg Sandfort, president and CEO. “Arizona’s proximity to our Western stores provides an ideal location for our new facility which will allow us to achieve lower transportation costs and faster delivery to our stores. Casa Grande has an excellent workforce, and we appreciate the hard work of the local and state officials who assisted us through the process.  We look forward to a very long and productive partnership with the Casa Grande community.”

The Phoenix office of JLL completed the 100-acre land sale that will bring a new Tractor Supply Company distribution center to the rail-served, 416-acre Central Arizona Commerce Park in Casa Grande.

“It is exciting to welcome Tractor Supply and to continue to bring manufacturing and distribution-focused companies together in Casa Grande,” said JLL Managing Director Bill Honsaker. “Central Arizona Commerce Park is about making connections – connections that link West Coast ports inland and that deliver the benefits of this very strategically located, cost effective and business-forward environment.”
Honsaker, along with JLL Managing Directors Anthony Lydon and Marc Hertzberg, are the exclusive brokers for Central Arizona Commerce Park.

“Tractor Supply Company will be a great addition to the community and will be joining many other agricultural, industrial, and commercial businesses in Casa Grande that have quick access to several transportation routes,” said Bob Jackson, Casa Grande Mayor. “We’ve worked diligently over the years to have the proper infrastructure in place for current and future growth, and have improved the efficiency of the permitting process to create a friendly business environment. We welcome Tractor Supply Company to the community and thank them for choosing Casa Grande as the site for their first western distribution center.”

Tractor Supply executives and local government officials held a ceremonial groundbreaking event today, November 17, at the Casa Grande distribution center site located in the Central Arizona Commerce Park. The facility is expected to begin operating in the fourth quarter of 2015 and will be approximately 650,000 square-feet in size, with the potential to create more than 250 local jobs.

“The new Tractor Supply investment will bring needed jobs to the Casa Grande community,” said Barry Broome, President and CEO of the Greater Phoenix Economic Council. “This further bolsters the city’s position in building out a future industrial employment corridor, and we are excited to have them in the region.”

Tractor Supply Company’s new distribution center will have the potential to service approximately 250 stores in the Southwest region. Currently, the company operates more than 1,360 stores in 49 states across the country.

“We are thrilled that Tractor Supply Company selected Casa Grande for expansion and thank them for investing in Arizona,” said Sandra Watson, President and CEO, Arizona Commerce Authority. “Our state’s strategic Southwest location and world-class infrastructure system provide companies a platform to access key regional and global growth markets, which help to advance their businesses and long-term corporate success.”

Central Arizona Commerce Park provides a premier distribution facility for the Southwest and is situated near the confluence of the I-10 and I-8 offering access to other regional infrastructure assets supporting businesses operating in Casa Grande and the broader region.

Trucks CrossingBorderat Nogales

4 big ideas shaking up Arizona-Mexico trade

While all of us have no doubt been busy getting enlightened by the endless stream of political TV ads, there have been lots of exciting things happening to grow Arizona’s cross-border trade profile with our neighbor Mexico.

Matchmaker, matchmaker, make me a match Dennis Smith and the team at the Maricopa Association of Governments deserve applause for the launch of the new website, BIEN, which not only means “good” or “right” in Spanish and French, but is an acronym for Building an International Economic Network.

Via BIEN, businesses in Arizona can set up an online profile that can connect them with buyers and sellers beyond our borders. Users can search for a business by distance, industry type or name.

As MAG Chair and Youngtown Mayor Michael LeVault said, the site “allows companies in Arizona, Mexico and Canada to directly connect with each other using technology instead of travel to broaden their customer base.”

BIEN is a great new tool in Arizona’s trade toolbox. Kudos to MAG for making it happen.

Down Mexico way Years since it was shuttered, Arizona once again has an official presence in Mexico’s political and economic capital city.

I was proud to join recently a delegation of about 70 business, academic and political leaders led by Arizona Commerce Authority CEO Sandra Watson, Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton and House Speaker Andy Tobin, for the official ribbon-cutting in Mexico City of the state’s new trade office, a joint project with the city of Phoenix. U.S. Ambassador to Mexico Tony Wayne, the consummate diplomat and an outstanding representative our country’s interests, was on hand to mark the special occasion.

Before the new office’s opening, not only was Arizona falling behind border state competitors like Texas and California, but even states like Iowa maintained a presence in Mexico City. Meanwhile, Arizona was nowhere to be found in Mexico’s largest city, despite Mexico being our state’s largest export market.

Re-opening the office is the right move at the right time. We have seized on this unique moment in Mexico’s history. Reform-minded President Enrique Peña Nieto has positioned his country to grow rapidly by opening Mexico’s energy sector to foreign investment. With a new trade office, Arizona and Mexico businesses alike now have a one-stop shop to start making the connections that will remind folks on both sides of the border of what an incredible asset our international border is to our economy.

As Gov. Brewer said, “As long as we continue to pursue and capitalize on important business and investment opportunities, we will enjoy a strong, continually thriving and mutually-beneficial partnership with Mexico long into the future.”

A port of opportunity The newly redesigned Mariposa Port of Entry in Nogales is open for business just as the busy produce season is ready to kick into high gear.

The Chamber’s Garrick Taylor blogged about the new port last week, but the big takeaway is that while a redesigned Mariposa is great for Arizona-Mexico trade, its value will be diminished if the feds don’t adequately staff the inspection booths. Even the most modern port of entry can’t efficiently move cargo if there’s not enough personnel to carry out the inspections.

Kudos to the entire Arizona congressional delegation, which last week sent a letter to Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson making clear that Arizona’s land border ports have real staffing needs that need to be addressed.

Expand the travel zone When former Mexico President Vicente Fox was in town a few weeks ago, the MAG team touted the effort it’s leading to expand Arizona’s travel zone statewide to Mexico visitors. The idea makes a lot of sense, and it’s something the Chamber supports.

Under current law, Mexican nationals with a valid Border Crossing Card (BCC) entering Arizona at certain land border ports can travel only as far north as Tucson before being required to secure further documentation and pay an extra fee. Traveling to places like Phoenix or Flagstaff requires an extra step and increased hassle in what should be a more seamless process. After all, the travelers who have valid BCCs have already been vetted at a U.S. consulate in Mexico, they still undergo inspection at the port of entry and, if the inspecting officer desires, the traveler can still be referred for more involved secondary screening or even be denied entry.

Doing paperwork with travelers who want to visit the Grand Canyon or go shopping in Scottsdale is not a good use of limited Customs and Border Protection personnel resources. Arizona’s travel zone has been expanded once before. It’s time to open up the whole state to Mexican tourism.

Glenn Hamer is the president and CEO of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry, which is committed to advancing Arizona’s competitive position in the global economy by advocating free-market policies that stimulate economic growth and prosperity for all Arizonans.

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Manufacturers Find Business-Friendly Environment In Arizona

Gov. Jan Brewer has done a lot to make Arizona more competitive for manufacturing, economic development leaders say.

“The repeal of the energy sales tax on gas and electricity is very big for us,” says Mark Dobbins, co-chairman of the Arizona Manufacturing Partnership at the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry. “We have a business friendly reputation and this change makes a big difference in our attractiveness to manufacturing.”

But there is one piece of the puzzle that still creates concern.

“Businesses wanting to relocate to Arizona are impressed with the business-friendly climate in the state,” Dobbins continues. “The question I hear most is, ‘Will I find an educated and experienced workforce for my business?’”

Concerns over education bring the Partnership and other economic development advocates around to the next focus — a quality, educated workforce to serve Arizona’s growing job demand. The conversation started with business, the community colleges, state universities and schools during the depths of the recession.

“The tax cut makes a major difference for a corporation,” says Barry Broome, CEO of the Greater Phoenix Economic Council. “Tesla, if it locates here, saves $30 million to $40 million a year with that bill in place.”

Broome considers SB1413 the most important bill for business in the current session. “The (manufacturers electricity sales tax) exemption brings us in line with most of the rest of the country; only 15 states had such a tax. For big power users, this is a make-or-break proposition. High technology companies spend more on power than payroll.”

“Continuous innovation is what keeps Arizona competitive in manufacturing,” says Sandra Watson, CEO of the Arizona Commerce Authority. “We believe that the future is in research and development and Arizona has one of the most competitive R&D tax credits in the country.”

The ACA manages that tax credit and it’s not handed out lightly or just for large manufacturers. The state has seen much of its manufacturing employment growth, now six percent of the workforce, from the smaller businesses. The ACA makes the credit available to any sized qualifying firm.

The state’s manufacturing history is sometimes lost in the ads for golf courses and new subdivisions. “We have a history of solid manufacturing in the state that goes back 50 or 60 years,” recounts Steve Macias, president and CEO of Pivot Manufacturing, Arizona Commerce Authority board member, and chairman of the Arizona Manufacturers Council, which falls under the umbrella of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry. “This gives us a solid workforce with experience, ability and productivity that is a plus for any manufacturer wanting to relocate or expand.

In addition to the cut on the utility sales tax, SB1484 was another breakthrough for manufacturers. The bill created energy tax credits that can be claimed by manufacturers generating renewable energy to power Arizona operations.

Dobbins says that Arizona has all the right assets in place for manufacturing today, but can’t rest on what we have now for the future. “We need to invest more to build our assets up,” he says. “We need a lot of work to build our competitive logistics infrastructure.”

He lists logistics where the state needs to invest more money and projects. “We’re in great shape when it comes to passenger traffic with Sky Harbor and (Phoenix-Mesa) Gateway airports. We need to do more for air freight.”

Dobbins believes Arizona’s manufacturing future is in building our exports with Canada, Mexico and South America. He’s not alone in that view. State Transportation Board Member Joseph La Rue emphasizes the same position. “Interstate 11 makes this market a crossroads. Right now, we’re just connected to the east and west.”

The state is taking effective action, says Macias. “With the change in (sales tax on energy) and (research and development) tax credit, we’re a state that is very appealing to a capital intensive business. Arizona is moving in the right direction.”

Arizona’s manufacturing opportunities are spread across the state. Most people think of Phoenix, Tucson and Yuma as the places where the businesses cluster, but small manufacturers are seeing emerging markets in Flagstaff, Prescott and Kingman, according to Dobbins.

With the tax credits and incentives offered through the ACA and some local governments, Macias says a small manufacturer can take advantage of an underemployed workforce in a rural area. Arizona provides significant tax credits and incentives for businesses to train and develop their employees. These come through ACA and the Department of Economic Security Workforce Arizona programs.

“We’ve always had aerospace, defense and semiconductors as our base,” says Broome. “We’re starting to build manufacturing industry clusters in high technology glass. GT Advanced Technology in Mesa and Rioglass Solar Steel in Surprise are a start. Once businesses start to cluster, more become interested because it means there’s a growing, skilled workforce.”

“We need to do more to build our workforce,” says Dobbins. “Arizona has consistently underfunded education and we’re paying that cost now. Common Core standards will give us a business-accepted measure of how our workforce stacks up. We don’t just mean in college education, but also in the important areas of technical education.”

“Common Core (education standards) are driven by business so that there is a national standard of comparison,” says Macias. “We’ve been working on the need for a trained and educated workforce so that we don’t slip into a deep recession in the future. We were too dependent on construction.”
Arizona needs to get the word out, experts say.

“When people come in to Sky Harbor, they’re overwhelmed with ads for golf, resorts and housing,” muses Macias. “That’s why they’re here in the winter. We need to overwhelm them with a message of what we do in Arizona. We do a lot, and we do it very well.

Staying Innovative as a One Man Operation

Innovators get boost from Arizona Commerce Authority

The Arizona Commerce Authority (ACA) has selected 18 recipients for AZ Fast Grant, a highly competitive grant program that provides qualified Arizona-based, early stage technology companies with intensive training and technical assistance to help them commercialize their innovations, grow their businesses and create quality jobs.

“Early stage companies play a key role in developing innovations that fuel our state’s economy,” said Sandra Watson, President and CEO, Arizona Commerce Authority. “The AZ Fast Grant program helps companies with critical training, technical expertise and the ‘know how’ to secure additional funding and commercialization opportunities to propel their businesses.”

Companies may use AZ Fast Grant awards for professional consulting services (that may include an expert review of technology under development); a commercialization feasibility study; or other commercialization assistance such as training to compete more effectively for federal Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) funding programs.

More than 50 Arizona small businesses applied for this round of the AZ Fast Grant program and awardees represent a variety of target industries.

AZ Fast Grant Recipients include (Total: $141,000, plus an additional $134,000 in leveraged funds):

* Arbsource, Tempe – Bio & Life Sciences
* Arizona Medical Systems, Peoria – Bio & Life Science
* Elliptical Mobile, Chandler – Advanced Manufacturing
* Engineering Science Analysis Corp., Tempe – Aerospace/Defense
* Grannus, Tucson – Cleantech/Renewable Energy
* Hildeez Enterprises, Peoria – Bio & Life Science
* MediCoventures, Peoria – Bio & Life Science
* Movement Interactive, Laveen – Bio & Life Science
* Kulira, Peoria – Bio & Life Science
* Prime Solutions Group, Goodyear – Aerospace/Defense
* QuantTera, Scottsdale – Advanced Materials
* Saccadous, Scottsdale – Bio & Life Science
* Score Algae, Scottsdale – Cleantech/Renewable Energy
* SiO2 Nanotech, Phoenix – Advanced Materials
* StatTransfers, Flagstaff – IT-Software
* Verve, Peoria – Bio & Life Sciences
* Vicinity Health, Chandler – Bio & Life Sciences
* YourLabs, Tucson – IT-Software

“I can honestly say the AZ Fast Grant really helped us get over the hump,” said Joe Marvin, Founder and President of Prime Solutions Group, a systems engineering and IT services company providing consulting expertise to government and defense contractors. Prime Solutions Group received AZ Fast Grant awards this year and in 2013.

With the help of AZ Fast Grant program support and technical expertise, the company recently secured $1 million in federal funding from the U.S. Department of Defense for its SBIR/STTR program submission this past fall. “We used our last AZ Fast Grant for commercialization strategy development, and that went directly into our federal proposal,” said Marvin.

Galleria Corporate Center 1, WEB

Weebly expands to Arizona, signs 25KSF Scottsdale lease

Weebly, a website creation service based in San Francisco, has signed a 25,000-square-foot office lease at the Galleria Corporate Centre, 4301 N. Scottsdale Rd. The office space will serve as the company’s North American customer operations headquarters to support its growing customer base.

Weebly’s expansion to Scottsdale will have a significant impact on the city’s economy. T The total economic impact over the course of the five-year lease term is estimated to be $256 million, according to an economic impact analysis provided by the City of Scottsdale. The company plans to bring more than 250 new positions to the city over the next three years, and will support more than two million customers from its Scottsdale office location.

“We’re extremely excited to open our new customer operations headquarters in Scottsdale. There is an amazing pool of quality talent in the area,” said David Rusenko, co-founder of Weebly. “With support from the city and the Arizona Commerce Authority, we’re looking forward to building a world-class team to support the success of our customers globally.”

The location, in the heart of Old Town Scottsdale, will allow Weebly to hire local talent to lead customer sales and support operations. Roles will include: customer sales and support specialists, team leaders, trainers, quality assurance and additional roles to be added in the future. Each new employee will become part of the company’s larger mission to help anyone start their something and easily build a business, website, blog or online store.

“The expansion of Weebly to Scottsdale was a collective effort by the city and our regional economic development partners to continue building Scottsdale’s software and technology sector,” said Scottsdale Mayor Jim Lane. “I am very pleased to welcome Weebly to Arizona and to Scottsdale.”

“It’s very fulfilling watching innovative clients like Weebly expand beyond their headquarters to new locations throughout the country,” said Cushman & Wakefield Senior Director Jon Dishotsky of San Francisco, who leads Weebly’s brokerage team along with Ryan Bartos and Matt Coxhead of Cushman & Wakefield of Arizona, Inc.
“After scouting several markets, including Denver and Austin, we were thrilled to partner with our Arizona colleagues to secure a great expansion location at Galleria Corporate Centre. The space is not only centrally located in Scottsdale, but also part of a bustling 24-7 lifestyle center, a feature important to Weebly’s unique culture,” Dishotsky said.

“This is a huge win for Scottsdale,” Bartos said. “It is exciting to see a company like Weebly expand into the Arizona market and bring some vibrancy to an already strong and growing technology tenant base. We believe this trend will continue and we look forward to witnessing their future success.”

Weebly was represented by Dishotsky and Cutter MacLeod of Cushman & Wakefield’s San Francisco office and Bartos and Coxhead of the Phoenix office. The landlord, Stockdale Capital Partners, was represented by Bryan Taute of CBRE.
“Weebly was also fortunate to have the support and guidance of the Arizona Commerce Authority (ACA), Greater Phoenix Economic Council (GPEC) and Scottsdale Economic Development Department to assist in this expansion,” Dishotsky said.

Each month, 175 million people visit more than 20 million Weebly sites worldwide. In the U.S., 33 percent of the total Internet population visits a Weebly site each month, up from 25 percent in 2013. As more people embrace the concept of the personal economy and starting a business of their own, Weebly is seeing tremendous demand for its technology which enables anyone to easily and affordably create a high-quality website, blog or online store to bring their unique idea to the world.

“Globally-focused companies continue to choose Arizona to achieve their goals for growth, and our highly skilled and available workforce is among our key advantages attracting corporate investment and expansions to the state,” said Sandra Watson, President and CEO, Arizona Commerce Authority. “We thank Weebly for selecting Scottsdale to expand its operations, and are excited to see the company help more businesses across the U.S. connect with their customers and grow through Weebly’s innovative web and e-commerce platform.”

Cushman & Wakefield Leasing

The 2013 Hammer Awards

It’s the most wonderful time of the year; time to hand out some virtual hardware to the winners of the 4th annual Hammer Awards, Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry President and CEO Glenn Hamer’s look back at the wild and the wacky of the year in politics and anything else that’s on his mind.

State Leader of the Year: Gov. Jan Brewer

This one was a runaway. Not even close. The governor at the outset of the 2013 legislative session took on a set of issues that would make most elected officials wilt: Medicaid restoration and sales tax reform. She spearheaded highly effective campaigns on both issues, stood strong against a motivated opposition, and won the day in each case. Her accomplishments as governor are too numerous to mention, but she outdid herself this year, adding to her profoundly positive record for the state’s business environment for which the state will reap rewards for years to come. She’s building a legacy that will be tough to match.

National Politician of the Year: New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie

Are you a Republican interested in running for statewide or national office? Take a lesson from two-time Hammer Award winner Gov. Chris Christie. The governor worked hard in his first term to burnish his image as pragmatic problem solver, and it paid off in 2013 when he won re-election in a route. Buoyed by a bevy of must-see YouTube videos, Gov. Christie made deep inroads into segments of the electorate that have been leaving the GOP in droves. I have no idea whether a Christie presidential campaign in 2016 will be a winning one, but his opponents underestimate him at their own peril.

Legislators of the Year: Reps. Debbie Lesko and Heather Carter

Some legislators get drafted into a fight, others volunteer. Rep. Debbie Lesko and Rep. Heather Carter volunteered to champion the year’s most contentious policy issues, and for that they each win a Hammer.

Rep. Lesko expertly navigated the thorny issues surrounding the reform of the state’s byzantine sales tax system in the face of an opposition that was perfectly willing to run out the clock on the legislative session and stick with the status quo. Rep. Lesko teamed with the governor’s tax guru, Michael Hunter, and refused to the let the session end without real reform.

Courage is an overused term in politics, but Rep. Carter has it in spades, as demonstrated by standing shoulder to shoulder with Gov. Brewer in her campaign to restore the Proposition 204 AHCCCS population. Rep. Carter didn’t waiver and remained committed in her belief that backing the governor’s plan was the right move. She was right on the policy, and I’m confident she’ll be proven right on the politics.

Rising Star of the Year: Adam Deguire

Rep. Matt Salmon’s Chief of Staff Adam Deguire has quietly become a mover and shaker in western politics. The Brophy grad has hit his stride as Rep. Salmon’s top aide after guiding Salmon’s return to Congress in the 2012 elections. Adam has done stints at the Republican National Committee as a field rep, was a senior level campaign and transition team aide to New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez in her 2010 run, and led the Hawaii GOP as its executive director. I always think it’s risky for a Hill office staff not to have ties back to the home state. Having Adam lead the staff and earn the frequent flyer miles between Phoenix and D.C. is a great move by Rep. Salmon, who will be well served by Adam’s commitment and loyalty.

Fighting the Good Fight: Sens. John McCain and Jeff Flake

I’m in the camp that firmly believes that we’re going to see a true immigration reform package land on the president’s desk in 2014. (For those keeping score, I was also confident that we were going to get a deal in 2013, but who knew that a government shutdown and an amateur hour website were going to crowd out every other issue.) But as we sit here on the cusp of a transformative shot of adrenaline for the American economy, let’s give a Hammer where a Hammer is due. We would not have gotten this far were it not for Sen. John McCain and Sen. Jeff Flake. Arizona is incredibly fortunate to have these men representing us in the world’s greatest deliberative body.

The Great Communicator: Matt Benson

Gov. Brewer has an outstanding team, including a few members who have won Hammers over the years. This year the governor’s former press secretary, Matt Benson, takes the honors for his outstanding work as the 9th Floor’s flack.

Issues like Medicaid restoration and TPT reform were incredibly complicated and they required their own public relations campaigns, but Matt communicated the governor’s positions on these and a host of other issues and acted as a liaison between the governor and her supporters, all while making it look easy. I should also note that there is no such thing as a day off for a gubernatorial press secretary, and Matt deserves a shout out for taking incoming fire from the fourth estate while he and his wife are still navigating the toddler years. Matt’s new firm, Veridus, is lucky to have this Hammer winner on board.

I Miss You, Man Award: David Cavazos

Phoenix is the best run big city in America. That’s in large part due to the dynamic Mayor Greg Stanton and a city council of professionals. But Phoenix this year bade farewell to its terrific city manager, David Cavazos. David was able to move effectively between different political factions in order to do what was right for the city. Having led efforts that ranged from attracting new investment to downtown Phoenix to spearheading trade missions to Mexico, he leaves big shoes to fill here. I don’t envy the search committee on this one.

A testament to David and Phoenix’s work is the appointment of Ed Zuercher as acting city manager. David left a great team behind as evidenced by Ed, a consummate professional, stepping into the top job.

An Apple a Day Award: Sandra Watson

I continue to be impressed by Arizona Commerce Authority CEO Sandra Watson’s talents. She’s taken the economic development toolbox assembled by the governor and Legislature and built something significant here. Constructing the deal that brought Apple to Mesa was a master stroke.

I can tell you from having traveled to Taiwan with the governor right after the deal was announced that bringing one of the most recognized brands to Arizona was a worldwide story. I did not expect dozens of Taiwanese reporters and businesspeople to pepper our delegation with questions about what makes Arizona so attractive to high-tech manufacturers. Sandra’s work is rippling around the glove, and for that she deserves a Hammer.

The Youngest Elder Statesman Award: Jaime Molera

The business community in 2013 rallied around Gov. Brewer’s health care restoration plan, but the campaign didn’t start to gel until Jaime Molera took on the role of a sort of campaign chairman. Jaime had the credibility and talent to bring together a host of lobbyists from across the health care and business community and assemble a dynamite team of political operatives to get the deal done. I hesitate to call a young man like Jaime an elder statesman, but the results leave little doubt that he was the right man for the job. Arizona owes a debt of gratitude to Jaime for stepping into the breach.

I would be remiss if I did not also acknowledge the work of Anne DeGraw, Jaime’s colleague at the firm of Molera-Alvarez, and Brittney Kauffman at the Arizona Chamber, both of whom ran the statewide campaign’s day-to-day affairs. Though he didn’t need it, they made Jaime look good.

The Mariano Rivera Best Closer Award: Jim Norton

On the last night of a legislative session, you can practically hear “Enter Sandman” echoing throughout the Capitol. This is the time that Chamber lobbyist and R&R Partners big shot Jim Norton shines.  When it comes to closing a deal, he’s the Mariano Rivera of lobbyists. He’s the best in the business, and I am incredibly fortunate not only to have him as the Chamber’s advocate at the Capitol, but to call him a friend.

He’s also a pretty good dancer. Give the man a Hammer.

The Legislative Branch Foreign Service Award: Speaker Andy Tobin and
his Mexico City trade delegation

Arizona in very recent history has had its share of missteps when it comes to our relationship with Mexico, which is why Arizona House Speaker Andy Tobin and the seven legislators who traveled to Mexico City with him this year all deserve Hammers for hitting the reset button south of the border.

The speaker was joined by Rep. Tom Forese, Rep. Catherine Miranda, Rep. T.J. Shope, Rep. Karen Fann, Rep. Juan Carlos Escamilla and Rep. Lydia Hernandez. The bipartisan delegation was received warmly by everyone we met from Mexico’s executive and legislative branches, with everyone appreciating the genuine effort made by the bipartisan Arizona delegation to make clear that we view the Arizona-Mexico relationship as a special one characterized by friendship and trust.

Also deserving recognition are Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton and Tucson Mayor Jonathan Rothschild, who led their own delegation to Mexico City this year. Both the mayors’ and the speaker’s trips drove home the potential benefits that could be gained by putting down deeper roots and elevating our presence in Mexico’s political and financial capital.

The Next Great Buddy Cop Tandem: Luis Gonzalez and me

I had the pleasure earlier this year of traveling to Guadalajara, Mexico with a delegation led by Mayor Stanton. As a big baseball fan, I was thrilled when I found out Luis Gonzalez was joining our group as a representative of the Diamondbacks.

By the time trip was over, I had been able to give Luis my keen insights on the improper use of closers, the proper execution of a suicide squeeze play, hidden ball tricks and when to pitch out against left-handed batters. I got the feeling there was some real chemistry there, the kind that a Hollywood screenwriter might want to tap into for the next buddy cop hit. I sense box office gold.

Most Versatile Player Award: Steve Macias

One of the reasons I love my job is because I get to work with an absolutely first class board of directors. The boards of the Chamber and the Arizona Manufacturers Council are comprised of some of the most outstanding leaders in their industries across the state.

One of these leaders is Steve Macias, the chairman of the AMC. Steve is the consummate champion for manufacturing in Arizona. As the president of Pivot Manufacturing, Steve knows the shop floor firsthand, which makes him such an effective advocate for this critical sector of Arizona’s economy.

Steve does it all for the Chamber. In addition to chairing the AMC, he’s always willing to serve as a master of ceremonies or moderator, and he’s an outstanding writer, providing insight through his occasional Made in Arizona columns. And the guy’s got a biting wit. He deserves a Hammer.

The Milton Friedman Rock Star of the Year Award: Bono

U2 frontman Bono has long been a champion of foreign and charitable aid to Africa as a means to alleviate poverty across the continent.  But in a speech at Georgetown this year, he said, “Aid is just a stopgap. Commerce [and] entrepreneurial capitalism take more people out of poverty than aid. We need Africa to become an economic powerhouse.”

Bono, your Chamber membership form and PAC solicitation are in the mail along with your Hammer.

Book of the Year: Immigration Wars: Forging an American Solution
 
Former Fla. Gov. Jeb Bush and Goldwater Institute legal beagle Clint Bolick win the Hammer for their book Immigration Wars.

The book is an excellent piece of work, full of real, actionable solutions on the immigration front that could find themselves into the House’s immigration package.

Citizen Advocates of the Year: Linda Stanfield and Craig Barrett

One of them owns a plumbing franchise; the other is the former CEO of one of the world’s most respected tech companies. But both of them win a Hammer for stepping into the arena of public advocacy.

Linda Stanfield runs Benjamin Franklin Plumbing in Arizona. She was the public face for TPT reform this year, testifying in committee hearings, appearing in campaign videos and standing alongside the governor at press conferences and, deservedly, at bill signing ceremonies. We need more Linda the Plumbers shaping policy in Arizona.

Craig Barrett heads Gov. Brewer’s Arizona Ready Education Council. He’s also the former CEO of Intel. If he wanted to, he could spend his days on a beach sipping mai tais, but instead he’s devoting his energy to ensuring that Arizona has an absolutely world-class education system, with high standards and expectations, accountable principals and teachers, engaged parents and students ready to learn.

Supreme Court Decision of the Year: Campaign contribution limits (award accepted by Rep. J.D. Mesnard)

Since it might seem unseemly to bestow state Supreme Court justices with the acclaim and notoriety that comes with a highly valued Hammer award, I’ll recognize state Rep. J.D. Mesnard, the architect of legislation that ushered in the modern era of political free speech in Arizona in a law recently upheld by the state’s highest court.

Also deserving recognition are attorney Mike Liburdi, who successfully argued in favor of the new contribution limits and Andy Gordon who, on behalf of the business community, filed an amicus brief that argued for the removal of aggregate limits on a candidate’s ability to accept PAC donations. Hammers all around!

Chairman of the Board: Rep. Tom Forese

Who needs a Hammer when you’ve got a gavel? Give Rep. Tom Forese a Hammer Award for expertly using his position as state House Commerce Committee chairman to hold informational hearings on topics that matter for Arizona’s economy. I was able to participate in his hearing on the state’s aerospace industry and the mining industry this year, and both were filled with outstanding content. There are true industry leaders in Arizona, and Rep. Forese deserves kudos for urging them share their knowledge with lawmakers.

From all of us at the Arizona Chamber, we wish you all the best this holiday season and in 2014.

Glenn Hamer is the president and CEO of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry. The Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry is committed to advancing Arizona’s competitive position in the global economy by advocating free-market policies that stimulate economic growth and prosperity for all Arizonans.

Business Credit Score

Progrexion Announces Phoenix Office, Hundreds of Jobs

Progrexion, the nation’s leading provider of services in the credit repair industry, today announced it is opening a new office in Phoenix, bringing hundreds of new jobs to the region.

“We are excited to enter such a dynamic and high-quality market like Phoenix to meet our growth demands. We acquired 30,000 square feet in North Phoenix for a sales call center and plan to add hundreds of hires initially, and then grow from there”, said Gene Abernethy, Senior Vice President – Human Resources for Progrexion, based in North Salt Lake, Utah.

“We are excited that Progrexion has chosen Phoenix as its new site,” said Mayor Greg Stanton. “This is one example of how Phoenix is making a big comeback in the job market. Our competitive and dynamic workforce makes us a top choice for companies looking for new opportunities.”
Progrexion used Dallas-based global location advisory firm Site Selection Group, LLC to assist in its national site search to expand its credit repair telesales operations.

“We worked closely with Progrexion to filter through a large number of potential cities to determine which location had the best chance to provide high quality associates and community support to meet Progrexion’s growth needs. Phoenix was the clear choice,” stated Samuel J. Pruitt, Executive Vice President & Principal of Site Selection Group, LLC.

“Progrexion is the national market leader in its industry, and its new Phoenix operations will allow the company to access a high-quality workforce to propel its growth initiatives,” said Arizona Commerce Authority President and CEO Sandra Watson. “Progrexion’s capital investment and expansion in Phoenix will bring hundreds of jobs to Arizonans while strengthening our state’s overall economy.”

Progrexion will host a job fair September 20 from 3-7 p.m. and September 21 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at 20620 North 19th Avenue in Phoenix. They are looking for candidates to fill call center and sales agents positions. On Friday, burgers and live music will also be available. On Saturday, the job fair will feature a family carnival with a bounce house, petting zoo, face painting and prizes.

In addition, Progrexion intends to bring to the Phoenix area its robust corporate giving program, which was launched in Utah in 2012 and has already raised more than $100,000. During the job fair, Progrexion will collect food and cash contributions to benefit St. Mary’s Food Bank. For every 10 pounds of food or $10 in cash, attendees of the job fair will be entered into a drawing for many great prizes, including a flat-screen TV and a mountain bike.

“St. Mary’s Food Bank would like to welcome Progrexion to the valley and we look forward to working with a new partner in the fight against hunger,” St. Mary’s Food Bank Alliance President and CEO Beverly Damore said. “Progrexion has been a hunger hero in their home state of Utah and were quick to reach out to the World’s First Food Bank upon their arrival in Arizona – where one in four children are affected by food insecurity. We look forward to this great new partnership.”

“Progrexion’s compassion for helping others succeed is a welcome addition to the Greater Phoenix region,” said Barry Broome, president and CEO of the Greater Phoenix Economic Council. “The region’s workforce and community strengths played a major role in their decision, and we’re proud to welcome them to Phoenix.”

“We look forward to being involved in the Phoenix community and establishing ourselves as a true employer of choice,” Abernethy said.

To find out about Progrexion’s career opportunities, visit http://www.progrexion.com/careers.

Sandra Watson

Sandra Watson – 50 Most Influential Women in Arizona Business

Sandra Watson – President and CEO, Arizona Commerce Authority

Watson has more than 20 years of economic development leadership and experience. She and her teams have attracted hundreds of companies to Arizona that have invested billions of dollars in capital and created more than 65,000 quality jobs.

Surprising fact: “My career in economic development began in Canada. When my family and I moved to Arizona, I continued economic development work with the City of Chandler and then the state of Arizona.”

Biggest challenge: “Economic development during the recession was extremely challenging. Working with Gov. Brewer and our elected leadership to create the Arizona Commerce Authority and lay the foundation for a more sustainable economy has been incredibly rewarding and is already paying dividends through quality job creation for Arizonans.”

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

real estate - expanding to california

Shine coming off the Golden State

The Tax Foundation in its 2013 State Business Tax Climate Index tells us something most of already know: California has high taxes. Really high.

In its state-by-state rankings, California checks in at 48, duking it out with New Jersey and New York at the bottom of the barrel. Breaking out the ranking in its component parts, California comes in at 45 for corporate taxes and 49 for individual tax rate.

The hits keep on coming. The California Taxpayers Association reports that California has the highest statewide sales tax in the nation and the country’s second-highest gasoline tax.

So it doesn’t take an economic development wizard to figure out that California’s pain could be Arizona’s gain. After all, while our governor and Legislature have been reforming Arizona’s tax code to make it friendlier to business, California has been going in the opposite direction.

As the Arizona Commerce Authority made clear last week in a presentation by ACA CEO Sandra Watson before the House Committee on Commerce, our state’s job creation authority is well aware that our proximity to California and our fertile jobs environment can drive job growth here at home.

But as Watson said in her testimony, “the opportunity in California goes way beyond a tax discussion.” The state’s California strategy is about opening doors to the world’s ninth largest economy and taking advantage of the opportunities our nearness to that market allows.

The ACA has set up offices in Santa Clara and Santa Monica where it has two executives working full-time as market representatives, spreading the word about what Arizona has to offer for firms exploring expansion, while also helping Arizona take advantage of the benefits our proximity to California has to offer, such as improved supply chain access.

As Chamber board member Pete Bolton of Newmark Grubb Knight Frank said at the same hearing, the tremendous growth in warehousing seen in the West Valley can be attributed to logistics. The area, according to Bolton is “zoned properly and that’s where the trucks come from. You get on I-8 and mostly I-10, it is a very serious line of trucks coming from the ports. The ports in Los Angeles distribute a huge amount of the products that we all consume.”

Sharing a border with California is advantageous to our other neighbors as well.  Currently, Texas and Mexico are tied for the 14th largest economies in the world and they, too, enjoy the access to California that Arizona provides. Arizona is well positioned to easily ship goods to market, while companies looking to hire California talent can set up shop in Arizona and have easy access to that talent pool.

As Watson pointed out, “Businesses generally don’t pay attention to a state border when they’re looking at access to markets. They’re going to ship their goods in and out, [and] they’re going to access the talent in those markets.”

Arizona is making tremendous strides in emerging technology and aerospace and defense. Having a flag planted in California, home to venture capital firms looking to invest in the next big thing, means opening doors for Arizona firms looking to be that next big thing. Beyond just access to capital, locating in Arizona means Arizona companies can enjoy the benefits of California without the high cost of doing business next door.

But the ACA’s strategy in California is more than just one state versus another or one region’s economic dynamism versus another’s. This is about global competition. By hanging a shingle in California, the ACA has access to the many multinational firms that call California home and is more easily able to interface with them to help Arizona companies reach customers around the world, especially since the world’s fastest-growing economies all have consulate offices in California.

Currently, the ACA has been in touch with over 200 potential leads and partners through their offices in California. Of those leads, more than 40 are truly qualified and are currently being pursued. The ACA is hopeful that more of those leads will become solid partnerships and that Arizona will continue to grow our presence within California. Greater Phoenix Economic Council President and CEO Barry Broome nailed it when he said, “California’s economy and Arizona’s economy are intertwined.”

But I close with a note of caution. For all that Arizona is doing right and California is doing wrong, let’s remember that the Golden State is our next door neighbor. While we’ve got the manicured lawn, our neighbor’s yard is overgrown with weeds and there’s a car up on blocks. It’s an eyesore and bringing down the value of the whole block.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is so concerned about the direction California’s taken that it’s launched the California Comeback, a policy initiative designed to help advance California’s recovery. A state with as much to offer as California is too important not only to Arizona but to the entire country to allow it to fail.

Admittedly, Arizona has much to gain by California’s struggles; we’re an escape hatch from their high taxes and stiff regulations. But we have so much more to gain when California makes a full recovery.

Glenn Hamer is the president and CEO of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry. The Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry is committed to advancing Arizona’s competitive position in the global economy by advocating free-market policies that stimulate economic growth and prosperity for all Arizonans. 

TREO-Chairmans_Circle_2013

TREO adds to leadership

The TREO Board of Directors announced the following new leadership additions:

> New Vice Chairman of the Board/Chair-Elect: Guy Gunther, Vice President and General Manager, Tucson and Greater Arizona, CenturyLink. The Vice Chairman serves a key leadership role in partnership with the Chairman of the Board, and serves as Chair-Elect for the 2013-2014 Fiscal Year.

New Chairman’s Circle Members:
> Karen D. Mlawsky, CEO, University of Arizona Medical Center
> Sandra Watson, President & CEO, Arizona Commerce Authority

“We’re thrilled to continue adding top business leadership to our ranks,” said Steve Eggen, retired CFO, Raytheon Missile Systems. “We have put together the right critical mass of leaders to accelerate our economic growth.”

As CenturyLink’s Vice President and General Manager, Guy Gunther is responsible for Northern and Southern Arizona markets for voice, data, entertainment and managed services, including P&L, field operations, customer experience, direct and indirect sales channels, network development and community relations. Gunther has over 20 years of senior management experience in telecommunications, consulting firms and finance. “I am honored to become part of the leadership of this effective organization,” said Gunther. “TREO is the connective tissue in the region – promoting our assets and creating value for companies looking to establish or expand operations in Southern Arizona.”

As CEO of the Hospital Division of The University of Arizona Health Network, Karen Mlawsky oversees both The University of Arizona Medical Center – University Campus and The University of Arizona Medical – South Campus, as well as dozens of affiliated clinics and physicians’ offices. She previously served as vice president of oncology services for University Medical Center in Tucson and spent more than 13 years at the Ohio State University Medical Center. “Health care will likely be one of the top job-creating industries, regardless of a slow economic recovery,” said Mlawsky. “There is tremendous opportunity to contribute to our region’s economic development through teaching and training our future health-care workforce.”

Sandra Watson, president and CEO of the Arizona Commerce Authority (ACA), brings more than 20 years of economic development leadership and experience to Arizona. She and her teams have successfully attracted hundreds of companies that have invested billions of dollars in capital and created more than 65,000 quality jobs. With Governor Brewer’s visionary leadership, and a private sector board of directors made up of some of the state’s most successful CEOs, the ACA has established an aggressive five-year plan and is experiencing strong results in strengthening the state’s overall economy. “Partnering with regional groups such as TREO is critical to our overall success. TREO is central to a larger, collaborative movement in the state,” said Watson. “As a result of our strong, long-standing working relationship, we will continue to attract quality companies creating high-wage jobs in the Tucson region, benefitting the statewide economy.”

TREO Officers include:
> Chairman of the Board – Steve Eggen, (ret.) Chief Financial Officer, Raytheon Missile Systems
> Vice Chairman of the Board/Chair-Elect – Guy Gunther, Vice President and General Manager, Tucson and Greater Arizona, CenturyLink
> Immediate Past Chairman – Paul Bonavia, Chairman and CEO, UNS Energy Corp. & Tucson Electric Power Company
>  Secretary/Treasurer – Lisa Lovallo, Market Vice President, Southern Arizona, Cox Communications

TREO is governed by a 16-member Chairman’s Circle, which serves as a key advisory group for business development strategy and represents the Tucson region to national business prospects, and a 46-member Board of Directors.

TREO continues its Chairman’s Circle/Board of Directors expansion efforts begun in 2010. Economic development is a high priority, demanding increased engagement from the key companies, organizations and people that drive the Southern Arizona economy. TREO leadership recognizes the importance of providing strong thought leadership for community development and strengthening the Tucson “product” and positioning as a business center.

The above new members join other leaders providing both private and public sector perspective in accelerating economic development. For a complete listing of the TREO Chairman’s Circle and Board of Directors, visit http://www.treoaz.org/About-TREO-Board-of-Directors.aspx.

Hamer - June 2011-fornewsletter

The 2012 Hammer Awards

It’s that time of year to hand out some honors for the year’s best. So it is without further ado that I bring you the Third Annual Hammer Awards.
Impact Player of the Year: State Treasurer Doug Ducey
The keeper of the state’s checkbook took down Proposition 204 in a rout, and for that Doug Ducey wins a Hammer. Before he arrived on the scene, the tax measure was poised to coast to victory with no opposition. Ducey rallied opponents to make a clear case to voters why Arizona could do better by its education system than to saddle the state with a permanent tax increase that wouldn’t advance proven reforms. Ducey hit the exacta when Proposition 118, which would help create a more reliable funding stream into the K-12 system, also passed.
Best Public Policy Effort of the Year: (tie) Personnel Reform and Competitiveness Package 2.0
Two major policy efforts in 2012 deserve Hammers.
Gov. Jan Brewer and the Legislature, led by Senate President Steve Pierce and House Speaker Andy Tobin, were firing on all cylinders in 2012 with their passage of a sweeping personnel reform package that injects a new and much needed level of accountability and professionalism into the state’s employment system. Newly appointed Brewer chief of staff Scott Smith deserves kudos for shepherding the package through the Legislature with the help of two of  the state House ’s brightest rising stars, Justin Olson and Justin Pierce.
As if that weren’t enough, though, the governor and Legislature also passed a major economic competitiveness package in 2012 that built on the gains passed in 2011. Who says you can’t have back-to-back once-in-a-generation job creation bills? This year’s wins included the state’s first ever reduction in the tax on investment income (capital gains), and it now makes Arizona more attractive from a tax standpoint to service providers who sell their services beyond the state’s borders, bringing the service sector into alignment with manufacturers. Gov. Brewer’s lead policy adviser and tax guru Michael Hunter, state Rep. J.D. Mesnard, who was honored as the Arizona Chamber’s Representative of the Year, and Arizona Commerce Authority CEO Sandra Watson all deserve a Hammer for a job well done.
Comeback Player of the Year: Matt Salmon
The Hammer goes to former and now Congressman-once-again Matt Salmon for his return to the U.S. House 12 years after he stayed faithful to his term limits pledge that he made when he was a member of the class of 1994. As someone who had the honor of spending a good chunk of his professional life working for Matt, the East Valley will be well served by its incoming congressman who, by having served three terms in the 1990s, brings to his job a perspective (and seniority) few have.
Expect Big Things: Steve Chucri
Maricopa County Supervisor-elect Steve Chucri is one to watch, so he earns the Expect Big Things Hammer. Steve is one of the most affable guys you’ll ever meet. Adding his voice to the Board of Supervisors will ensure that the needs of Maricopa County will always come before any personal political agenda. Drawing on his experience as the chief of the Arizona Restaurant Association, I expect he’ll inject a pro-business point of view into the Board’s work that will help Maricopa County grow more jobs.
Southern Arizona Star: Lea Marquez-Peterson
Lea Marquez-Peterson, the president and CEO of the fast-growing Tucson Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, wins the Hammer for her groundbreaking work to illuminate business issues for southern Arizona’s Hispanic and Spanish-speaking community. Through her work on votaaz.org, an online guide to candidates and election information, Lea is ensuring that more people than ever understand public policy’s impact on business.
I’ll Be Back: Kirk Adams
Former state House Speaker Kirk Adams may have come up short in his bid for Congress, but he’s simply too talented a leader and respected as a conservative voice to be gone from the scene long. Here’s hoping it’s won’t be too long until Kirk returns to a position of influence.
Emerging Mayor: Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton
If I were pressed, I might be able rattle off the names of a dozen or so big city mayors around the country. Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton gets the Hammer Award for now having clearly joined that small list of mayors whose influence exceeds the borders of his or her city. Mayor Stanton and his colleagues on the Council are doing great things in Phoenix. The Mayor has taken the lead in advancing trade with Mexico, developing a biotech hub, education and pension reform. Because of Stanton and City Manager David Cavazos, when cities around the country are looking for best practices, they’ll look to Phoenix.
Councilmen of the Year:  Sal DiCiccio and Tom Simplot
Phoenix has dramatically reduced the time it takes to get a project through the permitting process, an initiative headed up by Councilmen Sal DiCiccio and Tom Simplot.  This effort has received national attention, including from columnist George Will.
Buy this Stock: Danny Seiden
Danny Seiden, Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery’s political adviser, wins the Hammer for being a stock to watch in 2013. He was on the inside of two big wins in the 2012 election cycle: the defeat of Props 204 and 121, the so-called open primary measure, all while working with Montgomery to return the office of county attorney to respectability. And to boot, he’s married to one of Arizona’s most talented women, Southwest Gas executive Ann Seiden. Buy this stock!
The Next Generation: Martinez and Romero
They’re barely old enough to rent a car, but Gretchen Martinez (formerly Conger) and Lorna Romero each wins a Hammer for representing the next generation of Arizona politics. Martinez was the successful No on 204 campaign manager while doing her day job directing advocacy efforts at the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry. Romero last month was named Gov. Brewer’s director of legislative affairs, where she helps shepherd the governor’s priorities through the legislative process.
Serious Work for a Funny Man: Chris Bliss and the Bill of Rights Memorial
Professional juggler and comedian Chris Bliss wins a Hammer for his dogged determination to install monuments to the Bill of Rights in civic spaces across America. Thanks to Bliss’ work and legislation introduced by U.S. Rep.-elect Kyrsten Sinema, Arizona last week became the first state to dedicate a monument. The limestone pieces with the words of the first 10 amendments to the Constitution can be found at Wesley Bolin Plaza at the state Capitol.
Former Roommate of the Year: Steve Voeller
This is no slight to anyone else who split the rent check with me during my 20s, but Steve Voeller wins the Hammer for Former Roommate of the Year for his tireless and effective tax policy work at the state Capitol as head of the Arizona Free Enterprise Club. Steve is now headed off to serve as Sen.-elect Jeff Flake’s chief of staff. A trusted adviser for years to the senator-elect, Steve will be an excellent leader for the Flake office as he shuttles between D.C. and Arizona. The Chamber wishes him the best of luck in his new post.

Glenn Hamer is the president and CEO of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry. The Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry is committed to advancing Arizona’s competitive position in the global economy by advocating free-market policies that stimulate economic growth and prosperity for all Arizonans. http://www.azchamber.com/.

sandra watson*280

Arizona Commerce Authority gets new CEO

The Arizona Commerce Authority — the state’s economic development organization — is finally getting a new CEO to replace Don Cardon. The ACA is charged with creating jobs and boosting the state’s economy.

The Arizona Commerce Authority board voted unanimously Tuesday to have a board committee negotiate a contract with Sandra Watson, who was chief deputy to former CEO Cardon and has served as interim CEO since July.

Watson has made $218,000 annually as interim CEO. Cardon’s salary was $300,000.

The quasi-private authority took over economic development functions from the now-disbanded state Department of Commerce. The authority gets $35 million of state funding annually, including $25 million for grants to help attract, expand or retain businesses.

Cardon announced in January that he will return to running his businesses.

The authority’s board hired a search firm to help find a new CEO, but Gov. Jan Brewer said no other candidates emerged from that process as a finalist.

“We certainly interviewed and consulted with a lot of people but no one rose to the occasion,” said Brewer, who heads the authority’s board.

The board’s executive committee decided “that Sandra really stepped up in the interim and that she would serve us well as the ACA president moving forward,” the governor said.

Brewer won legislative approval of creation of the authority last year as part of legislation that also included business tax cuts.