Arizona: A New Model for Economic Development

A collaboration with top CEOs combined with new renewable energy incentives creates a new engine for job growth in the Grand Canyon State.

In an effort to be at the forefront of business attraction and job development, Arizona Governor Jan Brewer recently unveiled a new model to advance the state’s economy through its approach to economic development. The Arizona Commerce Authority will replace the current Arizona Department of Commerce, add a private-sector leadership board chaired by the governor, and position Arizona to be more responsive to business needs and opportunities.

“In my State of the State address, I promised that the sign out front will always read ‘Arizona is Open for Business,’” says Gov. Brewer. “This is a comprehensive effort that provides a 21st Century approach to advance Arizona’s economy. We will be more aggressive in attracting new industry and jobs to this state, and we will be more focused on helping great Arizona companies grow and expand.”

The new model is a result of the governor’s collaboration with top Arizona CEOs. The Governor’s Commerce Advisory Council is comprised of Jerry Colangelo, Paul Bonavia, Don Brandt, Bob Campbell, Don Cardon, Brad Casper, Linda Hunt and Roy Vallee.

This new authority will be driven by a 15-member board consisting of business and community leaders across Arizona. It will provide insight and expertise on targeted industries, such as solar, science, technology, aerospace and defense.

“Governor Brewer turned to business to solve a business problem—I have to applaud her visionary approach,” says Donald E. Cardon, Director of the Arizona Department of Commerce. “This new authority will help Arizona entrepreneurs to achieve great success, to grow here at home and to create more jobs.”

The new economic development authority will coordinate and integrate the efforts of key partners like Science Foundation Arizona, universities, regional economic development groups and the member communities of Arizona’s Councils of Governments.

One of the target industries is renewable energy. Using $5 million in funds awarded through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act by the U.S. Department of Labor, the state will train more than 1,500 Arizonans in the skills required for this emerging industry sector.

“I am working to secure more companies in the renewable energy industries to come to Arizona and create jobs—jobs that require specific skills—and winning this competitive grant will help Arizona workers advance their knowledge and meet the needs of green businesses,” says Gov. Brewer. “Forty partners worked together to bring their expertise and commitment to this project in order to secure long-lasting benefits for our state. The work that was done will further advance our goals to attract new businesses, secure quality jobs and help put Arizona families back on their feet.”

Gov. Brewer also signed a new Renewable Energy Tax Incentive into law in 2009. She also announced that one of the world’s largest solar cell manufacturers will be locating its U.S. headquarters in Arizona in 2010. China-based Suntech Power Holdings is a multi-billion dollar corporation that makes photovoltaic solar cells and solar energy systems.

“States compete for high paying jobs, and the new Renewable Energy Tax Incentive Program allows us to compete while making sure that the companies who choose to locate in Arizona are an asset to the state’s economy by providing high wage jobs and health benefits,” says state Sen. Barbara Leff, who helped champion the legislation. “The renewable energy sector is vital to our economic future.”

Suntech will locate in the Phoenix-metro area, but has not announced its Arizona site. The company is expected to hire up to 150 Arizonans in its first phase.

“Bringing green collar jobs to the U.S. has been part of our corporate vision for quite some time, and Arizona’s supportive policy and research environment drove the decision to come to the Greater Phoenix Area,” says Steven Chan, chief strategy officer of Suntech. “We look forward to continued growth in Arizona and across the U.S. as the domestic solar market expands.”


Prescott Valley: “Where Opportunity Lives”

Prescott Valley is the gateway to north-central Arizona’s Quad-City Region, one of Arizona’s fastest growing communities with expanding diversity. The regional population has grown to over 175,000 and its workforce of over 78,000 has gained the attention of national firms. Ace Hardware with a 980,000-square-foot Retail Support Center; PrintPack, Inc. with a 140,000-square-foot film packaging production; BetterBilt Home Products window and door production facilities; and Superior Industries Inc.’s 50,000-square-foot manufacturing and southwest marketing headquarters are four regional distributions centers that have increased their ability to serve larger markets by finding their location in the Big Sky business park.

Prescott Valley offers a 403 square mile Enterprise Zone and Foreign Trade Zone, 300 acres in Big Sky business park, a local quality jobs program, four-mild seasons, an expanding workforce, business friendly local government, and lower labor costs—all proven beneficial for a growing number of small and medium sized aerospace manufacturing, precision machining and high tech assembly firms.

Easy access to major markets like Phoenix, Los Angeles, Las Vegas and Albuquerque via I-17, I-40 and I-10 make aviation/aerospace, light manufacturing, back-office and distribution companies strategic targets for development and growth throughout the Quad-City region.

Gary Marks, Executive Director for the Prescott Valley Economic Development Foundation (PVEDF) explains that “knowing the region’s labor force, connectivity, local governmental officials, land and building costs and key issues are essential when working with consultants, site-selectors and company officials.” He goes on the say that the PVEDF’s primary job is to find quality companies looking for a quality community where they can build their businesses and enjoy a business and family safe environment knowing their employees are well trained, productive and share their need to be successful.

Prescott Valley has rapidly become a modern and vibrant regional hub in Northern Arizona. The new residential developments and new urban design downtown are contributing to the unique character being brought about by the individuality of the neighborhoods and town center within this regional hub. The regional commerce is evolving into a mix of densities, intensities and uses.

Prescott Valley remains one of Arizona’s safest, attractive and affordable communities for families to live, work and play. Business and Community leaders continue to protect their clean and beautiful natural environment, their small town character and sense of community. This Northern Arizona community is developing into the center for medical services with its new regional hospital. Its expanding medical corridor in its 500-acre town center is attracting numerous medical providers and services for this vibrant urban hub.

Educational opportunities for all ages have been and continue to be a major force in Prescott Valley. The area boasts an outstanding k-12 school district, four colleges and universities and a new Joint Technical Educational District. And with the new partnership of Yavapai College and Northern Arizona University, Prescott Valley has become home to a new four-year college, the new model for affordable higher education in Arizona.

When workforce, transportation, productivity, connectivity, market access and affordability are top on your factoring list “Prescott Valley is Where Opportunity Lives”.


Sun Shines on Tucson

Tucson today is the U.S. home to some of the world’s leading photovoltaic manufacturers, including Schletter Inc., which designs and manufactures solar mounting systems, Global Solar Energy; the leading manufacturer of thin-film CIGS photovoltaic modules; and SOLON, which like Schletter is German-owned. SOLON’s operation, Arizona’s first for the manufacturing of photovoltaic equipment, could serve as the cornerstone of the growing solar economic development market in Southern Arizona. The state’s solar push began a decade ago when the public utility regulator, the Arizona Corporation Commission (ACC), began to aggressively pursue solar resources. ACC later announced that 15 percent of regulated utilities’ retail sales must come from renewable energy sources by 2025. It is now about 1 percent statewide.

The state released its Solar Electrical Road Map Study in 2007, leading to the creation of the Arizona Research Institute for Solar Energy (AZRise) at the University of Arizona, which serves as a solar energy center of excellence. Arizona has shown its commitment to meeting the 15-percent renewable energy standard. Tucson Electric Power (TEP) already has developed almost 10 megawatts of company-owned renewable energy generating capacity, and is on track to add another 3.4 megawatts of company-owned capacity and to purchase 31.5 megawatts in the coming years. Some of the power TEP will buy will come from a 5-megawatt concentrating solar power system being built by Bell Independent Power Corp. at the University of Arizona Science and Technology Park in Tucson. TEP will purchase another 25 megawatts from a photovoltaic system owned by Fotowatio Renewable Energies.

The state’s targeted incentives make it one of the most effective places to do business in the nation, according to Laura Shaw, senior vice president of marketing and communications for Tucson Regional Economic Opportunities (TREO). “In the midst of this economic downturn, Arizona has truly increased its competitiveness,” Shaw tells Business Facilities.