Tag Archives: tax incentive program

SkySong is a mixed-use development in Scottsdale with a focus on global industries. - AZ Business Magazine Jan/Feb 2011

GPEC’s Revamped International Leadership Council Looks To Bring Foreign Direct Investment To Arizona

The Greater Phoenix Economic Council (GPEC) is sharpening its international approach with an aim toward bringing more foreign direct investment to the state. To that end, GPEC has restructured its International Leadership Committee (ILC).

“My vision is to put Arizona on the radar,” says Rudy Vetter, senior vice president of international business development at GPEC.

Sharon Harper, president and CEO of The Plaza Companies, is one of the ILC’s co-chairmen. The Plaza Companies is the co-developer of SkySong, a mixed-use development in Scottsdale with a focus on global industries.

“Repositioning the (ILC) board and a more strategic focus on foreign direct investment on Europe, Asia and Canada has resulted in a greater number of international prospects and successes,” she says.

Harper notes that the top-tier markets for the committee are those that best align with Arizona, such as China, Germany, Italy, Spain, France, the United Kingdom and the Netherlands, along with Japan, Korea and Canada.

The specific industries being targeted are solar energy, other renewable energy products, clean tech and environmental technology, biotech, medical and life sciences, as well as high-tech manufacturing.

“There is a great opportunity for Arizona and Greater Phoenix to benefit significantly from foreign direct investments. By focusing on Arizona’s core strengths, and specifically the vision at SkySong and other projects that are focused on the global economy, Arizona will be attracting and creating good jobs for our region,” Harper says.

Reducing the committee’s size, along with adding leading investors and major academic leaders in the Valley to its roster, has resulted in a concerted effort to make a more powerful impact in the international arena. Intel, Arizona State University, Thunderbird School of Global Management and the University of Phoenix all have a presence on the committee, as well as representatives from the United Kingdom, Germany, Canada and the Netherlands, among others.

“The key element for the ILC is that they invest their expertise, their skills and knowledge about international affairs, and they combine that with investing into their network, connections and international activity,” Vetter says.

With a diverse and experienced pool of senior executives on the committee, the main goal is to get the word out about Arizona and the many perks it offers.

“It’s about creating awareness,” Vetter says. “Arizona is not necessarily the first state that comes to mind to an international investor. (It’s up to us) to make them aware of the great qualities this place has.

“Very often, we create first contact by meeting companies during trade shows and conferences; we find out if there is a company interested in an operation in the U.S., and we make the case for Arizona and Greater Phoenix,” Vetter adds.

He points out that although Arizona can’t compete with companies looking for an East Coast presence, when it comes to the West, the committee’s job is to ensure the state is on the shortlist of candidates.

Since the passage of the Renewable Energy Tax Incentive Program, Arizona has become a power player in the solar industry, attracting several high-level, international companies to the Valley. To keep the momentum going, Vetter and the rest of the committee work closely with international companies, providing them with step-by-step plans to make their entrance into Arizona a smooth one. The process of foreign companies setting up a presence domestically comes with many challenges, and GPEC strives to ensure the companies’ success.

“It’s a seed that we have to nurture, and sooner or later we can grow a plant,” Vetter says. “They’re coming with an investment, but they have to create the business from scratch. GPEC connects them with local business to get them started faster and to create mutual benefit for the whole community. We hear all the time from companies that locate here; they love this one-stop shopping (GPEC offers).”

As the ILC continues on its mission to attract foreign investors to the area, it also will continue to focus on building a strong sustainability industry in the state.

“The idea of seeing the Valley plastered with solar panels, people driving cars they can plug in and knowing they don’t have to pay their utility bills is a nice vision — but we are not that far from it anymore,” Vetter says.

AZ Business Magazine Jan/Feb 2011

A Rioglass solar facility - AZ Business Magazine Jan/Feb 2011

Renewable Energy Tax Incentive Program Helps GPEC Bring In The Shining Stars Of Solar

It makes sense that a city with an average of more than 321 days of sunshine a year is taking the lead in solar, thanks in large part to the tireless efforts of the energy source’s biggest crusader in Arizona: the Greater Phoenix Economic Council (GPEC).

“I think if you look at comprehensively the way that we approach the utilization of solar, this is top-down the best market to do solar manufacturing,” says Chris Camacho, executive vice president of business development at GPEC.

GPEC aggressively pushed for passage of Senate Bill 1403, the Renewable Energy Tax Incentive Program, that was signed into law in 2009. The incentives include a refundable tax credit and a property tax reduction.

Since January 2010, eight companies have made the commitment to come to the Phoenix Metro area, with many more anticipated for the future.

GPEC’s hard work has led to making connections around the globe and attracting a number of high-level renewable energy companies to the Valley. One of these companies is Suntech Power Holdings, the world’s largest manufacturer of photovoltaic modules.

“Arizona can be very proud that it has GPEC as an ambassador for the region to reach out to global companies,” says Wei Tai Kwok, vice president of marketing at China-based Suntech Power Holdings. “They’re pounding the pavement to get the message out there that they want to be the solar capital.”

It was thanks to this commitment that Suntech decided to make Goodyear the location for the company’s first U.S. manufacturing plant.

“(GPEC) helped us with the financial modeling, business plan and follow-up,” Kwok says. “They were very attentive and committed to our success … and they’re still at our side and supportive of our needs.”

He also listed other important attributes that factored into the decision, including the state’s skilled work force and Arizona’s serious commitment to solar energy.

GPEC’s Camacho says that type of confidence and emphasis helps the organization differentiate itself from similar groups.

“GPEC’s brand as a group can provide the highest level of services to companies in analyzing the Western U.S. for business locations,” he adds.

The companies that have worked with GPEC can attest to its capability in assisting with relocation efforts. Rioglass Solar, a company that produces reflector components for solar thermal power plants and is a subsidiary of Rioglass Solar Holdings in Spain, worked with GPEC to establish a manufacturing facility and U.S. headquarters in Surprise.

“It was very helpful for us to have an organization that could get us the support we needed,” says Greg Armstrong, chief operating officer of Rioglass Solar. “You need a site that is constructible, has infrastructure and has a quality work force.”

Armstrong adds that the company is highly confident that due to the support of the local community, the infrastructure and GPEC, coming to Arizona will meet Rioglass Solar’s objectives.

Of course, one of the biggest benefits the expansion of the solar industry in Arizona will have will be on job creation. The more activity there is in the region, the more high-quality jobs will be available. The Suntech plant already has created 80 jobs and is expecting to increase to about 150 people within three or four years. Rioglass Solar also anticipates more than 100 positions at its Surprise facility.

While there has been plenty to celebrate since the passing of the incentive program, there are still hurdles to overcome. The catalysts for future growth of the solar industry in Arizona certainly are in place, but the economic difficulties have had an effect.

“We have seen corporations be very conservative in how quickly they move on investment decisions,” Camacho says. “We still have another 150 renewable energy companies in our pipeline. As the economy continues to recover, credit becomes more available, we will welcome more and more companies.”

It’s safe to say that Arizona is moving ahead in the sustainability industry — most notably in the solar field — and thanks to GPEC’s support, there are no signs of this industry slowing down.

“I look at sustainability alongside health care as one of the two industries that is going to drive our economic future,” Camacho says. “Without groups like GPEC, a lot of this would not exist, and I’ll attribute that to having our team be at the forefront of understanding these technology applications, understanding what drives the location decisions of CEOs, and creating an environment that’s very supportive of the (solar) industry.”

AZ Business Magazine Jan/Feb 2011

Bill Pepicello, chairman of GPEC and president of University of Phoenix - AZ Business Magazine Jan/Feb 2011

Q&A Bill Pepicello, GPEC Chairman And University Of Phoenix President

What are your top goals as chairman of GPEC?
First, and foremost, my goal is to build on the momentum that Michael Bidwill, GPEC’s immediate past chairman, and Barry Broome, GPEC’s president and CEO, have driving the region toward new high-quality jobs. … I also want to expand on their vision and ideas to build a healthy economy. Many of the pieces of the puzzle are coming together now. Arizona’s Renewable Energy Tax Incentive Program is driving hundreds of new jobs and millions in capital investment. In addition, many leaders are focused on moving Arizona’s economy beyond its former reliance on the construction, retail and real estate industries.

How would you characterize Greater Phoenix to companies looking to expand here?
Greater Phoenix is a strong investment decision for companies. We have ground-floor business opportunities for companies looking for the right place to expand their businesses. Renewable energy companies and bioscience companies do very well here. The semiconductor and aerospace industry are intertwined in Arizona’s history. Also, Greater Phoenix is an ideal location to launch a business and export products to California, which has a more expensive business environment. … We have highly skilled labor, an affordable operating environment and new available buildings.

Why is GPEC targeting the renewable energy industry?
The industry provides high-quality jobs for local communities, injects millions in capital investment, and draws other companies that serve as suppliers. … GPEC will continue to focus on renewable energy policy and the state’s aggressive Renewable Energy Standard that appeals to companies. Michael will continue to play a pivotal role in advancing the renewable energy industry, as Gov. Brewer has appointed him to lead the Arizona Commerce Authority’s Renewable Energy Growth Sector Committee.

What is GPEC doing this year to advance the region?
We are partnering with the Legislature to bring more high-quality jobs to Arizona, and we are working with lawmakers to modernize the state’s Enterprise Zone to draw more companies here. We are continuing with rebranding efforts to move Arizona’s national image beyond the immigration debates. I believe our efforts to continue diversifying the region’s economy will have a lasting impact for the region and Arizona. GPEC is working very hard to strengthen the economy. We have many tasks to accomplish this year but we are definitely up for the challenge.

AZ Business Magazine Jan/Feb 2011