Arizona Department of Commerce

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Director of the Arizona Department of Commerce, Don Cardon, discusses plans to replace the department with a new economic development authority.

Ted Simons: Governor Brewer wants to do away with the state's commerce department and replace it with an authority that would focus on job creation. Here to talk about the plan is Don Cardon, he is the director of the commerce department. Good to have you here. Thanks for joining us. What does the commerce department do?

Don Cardon: What it's done and kind of what it's doing now and where it's going are really almost three different things. In the past, it's ranged -- it was part of the problem was principally it's supposed to be about commerce. About business. And it is. But it evolved over time from everything from business attraction, which we want, and retention, but it grew into things like military installation funds, nursing programs, population statistics, at kinds of different things. Each of which is valuable, but we started to lose focus. And with that loss of focus there was a loss of credibility with the legislators. And I think with the business community.

Ted Simons: So the idea of being stretched too thin was a factor. I've also heard that it was, quote, too political. What's that mean?

Don Cardon: It was very political. What it really was, it was a place where sometimes when people would lose or move out of office, they would have keys -- key employees they wanted to play -- Plairks or preserve for their well-being. Good people, but where do you put them? They would go to commerce. Commerce would have so many different facets, that they could find legitimate role most of the time. But you would end up with two, three, four deep positions, and so the efficiencies weren't there, and it just needed to be addressed. And that was one of the goals.

Ted Simons: Seven department heads in the past 10 years. That's a lot of upheaval. What's going on?

Don Cardon: You know, a lot of it is -- it's a challenging job. It's a challenging job because you have to blend the private sector and the public sector. You have limited ability to move. It works within the tension that's intend between the legislative and the executive branch, and of course changing administrations, so new governor their ability to place people. And you had people that would do it for a period of time and go back to the private sector. So it was difficult to keep people retained.

Ted Simons: With all that in mind, how does it change? What does this new authority do?

Don Cardon: The simplest thing--the best way to share with it is , we've taken the commerce department, seven divisions, we're going to two. The only divisions that will be retained are business and energy. All other departments we're either eliminating or removing them to other areas, so in essence you takes a department, get rid of it, get rid of all the legal things, and then you create a new Arizona commerce authority. The difference being, when you create something new, you only bring back what you want to focus on. And secondly, you put it under the governance of a private sector board that's not been there in the past, and you ask the governor to come in and share that board. So you connect executives or CEO of the state, with the private sector and you get after it.

Ted Simons: So it is public-private?

Don Cardon: It's public, it's a quasi public. It's public in the sense that you can delegate out or outsource the representation of the people. But you can involve the private sector in terms of governance, in terms of envisioning, strategies, things like that.

Ted Simons: he governor had mentioned she wants to target renewable energy, aerospace, and defense, science and tech, small business ventures,. Which suggests these sorts of things weren't targeted before?

Don Cardon: No, they really were. The difference is that what I found is that we look at everything from those four areas to also things that are equally important. Health care, manufacturing, and there's a broad band of things that the global economy asks you to address. We want to address, and we want to attract. But what we had to do was say we had limited resources, and Arizona has like all states, specific areas they can globally compete right now. And we believe those areas are like you said, in the science technology and aerospace defense, renewable energies and small business.

Ted Simons: How much funding will this authority need, and I know one of the criticisms of the commerce department, it was consistently underfunded. Is that going to be changed?

Don Cardon: You know, I'm hopeful it Lynn crease. I think part of it is, we have to demonstrate credibility. In the short term we're going to take existing budget that's in place and we're going to operate under that existing budget. But what my hope is that we can demonstrate success to the degree where legislators go, you know, you're listening, and you're doing the right things we're minimizing government, we're getting focused, and look at the results. So we're going to put more money to you. That's our hope.

Ted Simons: You mentioned the legislature. What kind of reaction are you getting so far?

Don Cardon: You know, overwhelmingly positive. I think bipartisan truly genuinely, I haven't had one negative call. It's been positive, it's been nationally recognized we're getting inquiries from around the country. Wow, you guys are really doing something substantive. It's not every day you get say let's get rid after state agency.

Ted Simons: And it's not every day the department head comes on "Horizon" and says this is a great thing. I'm sure some viewers are wondering, what's going to happen to Don Cardon? Last captain on a ship that's not going back out again.

Don Cardon: I'm fortunate in the sense that I have other companies that I'm involved in, and been involved heavily in downtown in the development world, and I still have those business aspects. The thing I Campaign '08 to the cabinet for was the unique challenges facing our state. And really they allowed for great turnghts but they required a director to be if you will a change agent that can do things without a personal agenda and preservation of a position involved. It just would have been difficult. And so one of the things we're trying to do, you mentioned the seven revolving director doors we're going to do a national search. The governor wants to pursuit best talent she can get and put that person under a contract, and so I will be with -- I the serve the governor as long as it takes to get this implemented. And I admire her greatly and I any her leadership is amazing. So I'm proud to do.

Ted Simons: Thank you for joining us. We appreciate it.

Don Cardon: Thanks.

Don Cardon:Director, Arizona Department of Commerce;

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