Dr. Lattie Coor, Chairman and CEO of the Center for the Future of Arizona, discusses the 10 finalists in a competition to make Arizona a better place to live and work.
Ted Simons: The five communities project is a competitive effort to strengthen Arizona on the local level. Communities were asked to submit ideas to move Arizona forward in terms of jobs, education, and other issues identified in the Gallup poll as important to Arizonans. The competition now has 10 finalists, here to tell us more is Lattie Coor, chairman and CEO of the center for the future of Arizona, which is sponsoring the contest. Good to have you here again.
Lattie Coor: Good to be here.
Ted Simons: Kind of a capsule to the five communities contest project. What are we talking about?
Lattie Coor: What we discovered in the Gallup, Arizona, poll is that Arizonans love this place and they think the strength of Arizona is in the communities. So in a sense it begged the question, how do communities act in a way that will advance the larger goals, goals you've just mentioned of education and job creation, and environment, well, we said let's ask the community -- ask people in communities all over the state if you could get funding, if we could help you get some national foundations to help fund what you're going to do, what would you propose to do? We thought we'd get maybe 30 or 40 proposals. 96. We got 96 from all over the state. So the process we're at now is having narrowed it to 33 semi finalists, all of them wonderful. They're just fascinating proposals. Keeping all of the rest of them still working on it, just because they were not chosen for the next level, we're saying, don't stop. Keep working on what you're doing, but now we're down to 10. And we're going to take these 10 to a national conference that we're cohosting next week, happily you're on one of the panels. Introduce these 10 programs to the people who are here, and then have them move to the final stage in which we will choose five. Once we have those five in hand, and again, we're going to encourage the others to keep working, we want to make sure we provided a $5,000 development grant to each of the 10 to make their proposals truly competitive on a national level. Before a national foundation. And we're going to try to introduce them to some of these people, get them ready, so that by November we will have the five and we then will work with them to get three years of funding at a level somewhere between 25 and 100,000 a year, per project over that period -- per year, to carry it out.
Ted Simons: As far as the 10 finalists, how are they chosen, chosen by whom, and what were the criteria?
Lattie Coor: We had a committee of 12 people. Eight of them from Arizona, four from national organizations, foundations. With a variety of experiences behind them. In fact, among the Arizonans, two or three who themselves are involved with foundations and make judgments about it. We did set a series of criteria that everyone had to respond to. Central to it of all is your idea transformational? Can you do it? Can you make it happen? If in fact you make it happen will your community ever be the same? Will it always be better for what you've done? And there were six questions originally that people had to answer. The committee reviewed them, evaluated them, met, chose the 33 semi finalists, we then got a feasibility assessment from them, what is your strategic plan, have you gotten other organizations involved, what will the grant you get enable you to do, will you raise other funds to do it? And the same commission, same committee made the choice there, and ultimately they will make the final choice.
Ted Simons: In other words, this is not an academic exercise, and you're not looking for theory and ideology, you're looking for change, realistic change.
Lattie Coor: On the ground, focused with -- and the way you'd like any project to be, but the actual test will be, have you done something. Has it been something that is important. That you go from success to significance in your own community.
Ted Simons: Give us an example. I notice there were three finalists on job creation, including the wine country getting that industry going, a couple focused on education and including girls in the Navajo reservation and three focused on the environment, Phoenix mountain preserves, give us --
Lattie Coor: And two or three focused on extending civil -- civic involvement in their own communities. The wine consortium is a very good example. Initially there were three. One from Verde valley, one from Cochise county, and one from Santa Cruz county. Two of them consolidated after they were selected as semi finalists, and what they're seeking to do is take advantage of this emerging industry, advertise it, make sure people know about it, and then get the entire community working toward bringing visitors, tourists, wine tastings, all of those kinds of things. In the Verde Valley alone, the industry generated $38 million last year. So it's a significant and interesting endeavor. The project on Navajo, it's a combination of the girl scouts and Arizona state University, and their stone studies program, their entrepreneurial program. And in projects they've been doing around the world, getting communities to come together and train their citizens, train their young people to be effective. This one targets girls on Navajo with special emphasis on math and science, stem education. So -- and entrepreneurship. So they can then begin entering the work force and even doing their own companies. On the environment, very interesting set. One locally here, desert botanical gardens, the Sonoran desert is one of the most recognizable in the world. We have a constellation of urban parks that treasure the desert, let's pull them all together, make sure we have a plan that not only uses them, but sustains them and most importantly makes it clear around the world this is somewhere to go. If when you to New York you go to Central Park or if you go to San Francisco -- San Diego you go to Balboa park, you come to Arizona, you go to south mountain park. It's to really get -- give it an attractiveness that will endure.
Ted Simons: The idea -- last question, about a minute left. How do you make sure that again, I know the effort is there to keep this from being an academic exercise or just a point and click kind of thing, how do you make sure this effort makes a difference?
Lattie Coor: If the proposal cannot show exactly what they're going to do, how they're going to do it, how they will use the money, I guarantee you this hard-nosed committee won't choose it. They will not choose them. The ideas -- we started with the ideas, but then we felt it was our role to move them through the process of making it real in terms of what they propose to do, and now it is making it real in terms of actually doing it. Proof will ultimately be in the pudding, but I think they've all positioned themselves to really get in there and make something happen.
Ted Simons: Sounds like a fascinating competition to watch. We'll keep abreast of that, and thank you so much for joining us.
Lattie Coor: My pleasure. Thank you.
Dr. Lattie Coor:Chairman and CEO, Center for the Future of Arizona;