International State of the State

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The 9th Annual International State of the State conference will be held October 15 in Phoenix. It’s a luncheon panel discussion hosted annually by the Phoenix Committee on Foreign Relations to look at Arizona’s place in the global economy and discuss ways to sell Arizona products and services internationally. Glen Hamer, President and CEO of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce, will talk about Arizona competing globally.

Ted Simons: The 9th annual International State of the State conference will be held October 15 in Phoenix. The event is hosted by the Phoenix Committee on Foreign Relations and is designed to look at Arizona's place in the global economy. For more, we welcome Glenn Hamer, President and CEO of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry. Good to see you again, as always.

Glen: Great to be back on the show, Ted.

Ted Simons: What is the state of our state in terms of international commerce and presence?

Glenn Hamer: The state of our state in terms of international commerce is very strong. Our three top trading partners are Mexico, Canada and China, in that order. Through the leadership of our state through all the things we have done to make the state more competitive with tax regulatory and tort reform environment we're seeing very positive developments with those three countries as well as our other international trading partners.

Ted Simons: In terms of Arizona's place in the global economy, where are we?

Glenn Hamer: We export about $18 billion worth of goods a year. That's about 25th in terms of all 50 states. We're in the middle of the pack. The good news is that we're moving in the right direction. In terms of our exports, about a third of that $18 billion goes to our friend and neighbor Mexico and then about $2 billion or so to our friend Canada. So the trade that we're doing with our NAFTA partners is really the dominant part of our export market right now, but a lot of progress in China, the governor took a very important trade mission to India. We're seeing some nice sprouts all over the globe.

Ted Simons: As far as Arizona's position, though, is it changing? Is it improving? Is it stagnant? We have had so many variables with the economy in general and issues here in Arizona in particular, what trends are you seeing?

Glenn Hamer: The trends are very positive. What we're seeing also is that as energy costs have gone up it's really made our relationship with Mexico more important. We're seeing some increased manufacturing opportunities. I want to commend the governor. She has declared October manufacturing month in Arizona, and we have been traveling around the state. We'll be in Tucson tomorrow to talk about some of the good things we're doing in terms of manufacturing. Manufacturers, by the way, make up about 80% worth of our exports. Talking about renewable equipment, semiconductors, defense, mining, such as copper. So what we're seeing is very positive. The other thing is that we have created a far more advantageous environment for manufacturing and exports than what existed three years ago. We have right now as we speak about a half billion dollars of business tax reform, tax reductions that are scaling in, that make Arizona far more attractive for export-oriented industries.

Ted Simons: "Makes Arizona more attractive for Arizona export-oriented industries. Is that coming to fruition? Are we seeing folks coming here because of these ideas and plans?

Glenn Hamer: Absolutely. Every major national business ranking has us going in the right direction. Chief executive magazine, we cracked the top 10 a couple of years ago. We now moved to 6. Forbes just ranked us as the state with the most positives in terms of job creation going forward. If you're not looking in the rearview mirror you're looking forward. Forbes had us basically in the number one position as the most attractive place in terms of expected job creation. Every indicator is going in the right direction.

Ted Simons: What are the biggest challenges in terms of understanding global trends and then acclimating yourself to those trends?

Glenn Hamer: Well, developing -- doing work abroad is not easy. I think I saw a statistic that only about 1% of companies actually export goods. It's a small percentage of our companies. Fortunately through the creation of the Arizona Commerce Authority, Sandra Wasson has really done a great job of building a team that could take advantage of these opportunities. We have other leaders in the valley like Barry Broome of GPAC, doing a very good job over the course of many years to sell Arizona abroad. The governor has been very active in terms of selling Arizona. So Ted, we're very encouraged at the Chamber. We have a good story to tell and we're doing a much better job of telling that story around the globe.

Ted Simons: Telling that story is a major issue I would imagine, especially when other stories will being told. Arizona's image nationally, I'm guessing internationally, curious at best. Some say there's a big problem there, Others say it's not as much of a problem. The fact is, we make headlines, good or bad. Those headlines, how does that impact doing business?

Glenn Hamer: I just had the opportunity to be on a trade -- bipartisan trade mission that speaker Andy Tobin led to Mexico, four Republicans, three Democrats from the state house. The focus of those conversations, we had the chance to meet with probably over 10 federal Mexican lawmakers. The focus on virtually all those conversations were on our trading opportunities. How do we make our -- how do we improve our ports of entry? How do we improve our customs process? The focus is really positive, Ted. I know there's always those concerns about different headlines that have been out there over the years, but right now the focus is really all positive. It's on things we can do to improve our trading relationships, particularly with our neighbors.

Ted Simons: So if Arizona's image was a certain thing, has that certain thing changed over the years?

Glenn Hamer: I feel that our image is very positive. People love the state. We're the Grand Canyon State. It's a gorgeous state. When I travel, when I have had the chance to travel abroad or in the continental United States, people love coming here. They have a very positive view of the state of Arizona. That's being tracked by the developments that we're seeing in the positive way in terms of job creation and the rankings from national organizations.

Ted Simons: What do we look for in terms of some sort of metric, some sort of measurement that shows that all of these plans, these ideas, tax cuts, policy that they are really moving in the right direction? The last unemployment figures didn't look too hot. Of course they were seasonal then, but they didn't look too hot.

Glenn Hamer: They're seasonal and we're adding jobs. In terms of the metrics that we should be looking at, yes, unemployment rates are important. When we're talking about just in terms of our theme, international state of the state, we should be looking at what's going on with our export number. We're at $18 billion. The president put a national goal out there to double exports over a five-year period. We want to see that number continue to go up. That's a number that we need to look at. And I'm very, very confident with the new policies we have in place and the incredible coordination that we're seeing led by the Arizona commerce authority and our excellent economic development groups. We're going to see several billions of dollars added to that export segment.

Ted Simons: We'll watch the conference again coming up here. Thanks for joining us.

Glenn Hamer: Thanks for having me on the show, Ted.

Glen Hamer:President and CEO, Arizona Chamber of Commerce;

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