Regional Economic Development

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Is the key to the Valley’s economic success hidden somewhere in the region’s DNA? It’s a question business, political and community leaders will explore during a “Conversation on Economic Vitality using PHX DNA.” Goodyear Mayor Georgia Lord and Steve Betts, the former CEO of SunCor Development discuss the event that takes place June 3rd in Chandler.

Ted Simons: Is the key to the Valley's regional economic success hidden somewhere in the region's DNA? Business, government and community leaders will explore that question tomorrow at a forum in Chandler. Tonight, in Horizon's continuing look at economic development, we hear more about regional DNA and how it applies to economic growth. Joining us is Goodyear Mayor Georgia Lord and Steve Betts, the former CEO of SunCor Development Company and current Chairman of the Board for the Urban Land Institute's Arizona Chapter. Thank you good to have you both here. Thank you very much. Alright Mayor, regional DNA in order to find the keys to economic vitality. What are we talking about here?

Georgia Lord: Well, we're talking about cities coming together in collaboration. We're talking about a great interest in the state as a whole. We've gone through very difficult times and I don't think that we need to be on an island any longer. I think we need to be working together to bring back Arizona, to what we know Arizona can be.

Ted Simons: And bringing back Arizona by looking at -- by looking at the DNA, what are you exactly looking at?

Steve Betts: Several years ago we hired an consultant, an international consultant to do a lot of research. Focus group, surveys and one on one interviews with grass tops and grassroots leaders throughout the valley to look at the authentic story of the valley. What can we be telling people nationally, internationally, about the valley that's real? And the research showed that we may be the last true MERITOCRACY in the world where somebody can come here and roll up their shirt sleeves and make something here of themselves that they can't in another city because of a glass ceiling, because of the good ol' boy network. We call it the opportunity oasis, and that opportunity oasis storyline is something that ought to resonate with a young bioscientist, with a young entrepreneur from another part of the country, the world.

Ted Simons: We talked about this earlier before we started the program, we've had this idea of reinventing yourself. Come to Arizona reinvent yourself. Got a problem in North Carolina, come out to Arizona -- that's a story that's been around for a while. It's been there. Why aren't we any better off than we are?

Georgia Lord: Maybe we need to have more nurturing of the creative class. Maybe we need to help and assist to help these young entrepreneurs develop. And to retain them in Arizona as they -- as they develop whatever widget they want to. I look at Skysong, how that runs and I look in Chandler, Chandler has that sort of same setup where we bring people who have -- young people who have the opportunity to create, to bring something new to Arizona. We're so dependent on one form in Arizona, that's housing -- is that correct -- housing, what we live on? And really we need to diversify and get away from that.

Ted Simons: We've heard about diversifying and we know what happened during the last downturn, are we ready to diversify? Once the river starts rising again, the boat will be awfully attractive.

Steve Betts: I think this time we are. We've been through a couple of other recessionary periods and they've been a couple of blips. I like to think of a recession that's fallen in a rabbit hole. We've hit the bottom. This has been a very deep rabbit hole and as we come out, I think the business community and leadership in the community, we've gotten serious about how we come out of the recessionary period. We're now talking about HEAT, as the business clusters. H is healthcare. We've always had great healthcare systems and we're growing them, starting to become the new Rochester of the country where people come here for healthcare delivery around the world. The E is green energy jobs. We are creating solar renewable energy jobs right and left today. A is aerospace and defense. We've always had those great A & D jobs, we need to grow those jobs. And T is technology both biotech and hard tech jobs. If we can grow those four market sectors as we come out of this recessionary period then I think the development industry, I was part of that development industry, the development industry then, can be a service industry to the primary industries. We build the buildings and houses needed for those primary industries.
Ted Simons: When you were with SunCor, and someone said I'd like you to be a service industry, how do you think that would have gone?

Steve Betts: I think that would have been fine, as long as we are still making money, we're still part of the industry group, but when we are building the office, industrial buildings and houses that are needed for a vibrant economy, that would be fine.

Ted Simons: You mentioned collaboration was important. So you're holding hands, all the cities are holding hands, but that's awfully attractive out there.

Georgia Lord: There's a thing called the halo effect and I'll give you a example. This is just really within our city. But you talked about renewable energy. We've acquired sun tech, a solar company in our city. It's been a great attribute to the west valley. From that, it's attracted other related solar industries. Surprise has -- is getting in on that. We have a really great story to tell about a local company called Arizona Galvanizing who has been in our city for a long time and been successful but never expanded and because of Sun Tech's developing and coming to Goodyear, they are helping to build a part needed for Sun Tech, so they're growing. We get -- the mayors get together and talk about things like this. Maybe we can share -- we share our fire department with Litchfield Park now rather than them having to build a fire house. There may be other cities that will be doing it. So that's the start of the collaboration. And they know if -- if the children's hospital is going to be built in the west valley. That's going to affect Goodyear even though it's not built in Goodyear because people will look at housing around the area and shop in the different shops, so that's part of really strong collaboration.

Ted Simons: Does that all make sense?

Steve Betts: It does absolutely make sense and I think as a community, we need to think about diversification strategy. We can no longer rely on being a construction and tourism industry-dominated economy where jobs are $25,000, $30,000 base industry jobs. We need to focus on jobs that are $50,000, $75,000. When you looked at Intel's announcement on the new fab plant and first solar announced their new plant and the job levels they were creating, they were up at the higher job categories, those are the jobs we need to produce. Where people aren't going on AHCCCS and the healthcare rolls.

Georgia Lord: Well, along with that, many of the programs were coming through like Senate Bill 1403, the solar bill which we all worked on, our citizens in the community worked on it. We wanted it. It has claw backs and it has healthcare and those things that benefit the state and the local community. So it's not just give-away programs. They're incentives, yes. Incentivized to bring the companies here, but it benefits the entire area.

Ted Simons: So this report, who is behind it and who is it designed to show information to?

Steve Betts: Thank you. It was originally kicked off by a group called MPAC, metro Phoenix Arts Council, and the group has gone way now. And GPEC worked with them. GPEC has now picked up and is running with it and came out in 2008 and this is what the report looks like and you go to the website, tell me again, do you remember?

>> Well --

Georgia Lord:

Steve Betts: You can get a copy of it. But if you go to that, it -- it was actually pitched to getting our communities to all talk from the same voice. Talk and tell the same story about this opportunity oasis storyline. It's not a brand opportunity oasis, or something you'll see on billboards. But it's to allow our cities, economic development groups and marketing agencies to sort of use that as a storyline to consistently pitch our best and bright young people, our creative class people to come to Arizona.

Ted Simons: Real quickly, not much time left. I've seen a lot of these reports, how does this stand out?

Georgia Lord: Well, let me tell you 2005 is the first time I heard this, sitting in a living room. It's -- it's so good that it hasn't died. It keeps coming back. So anything that keeps coming back, you know there's some worth to it and we need to take care of it.

Ted Simons: We'll stop you there. Thanks for joining us.

Georgia Lord: Goodyear Mayor; Steve Betts: former CEO of SunCor Development;

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