Arizona Town Hall: Employment and the Economy

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The latest Arizona Town Hall explores why the state has not recovered in employment and the economy in general as fast as the rest of the nation as a whole. Rebecca Timmer, Corporate Relations for Dibble Engineering and Karrin Taylor, Executive Vice President for Entitlements at DMB Associates, Inc. will discuss results of the latest Arizona Town Hall.

Ted Simons: The latest Arizona town hall explored why job growth lags the national average. Here are two panelists who worked on the town hall report good to have you here. Rebecca Timmer is the Corporate Relations for Dibble Engineering and Karrin Taylor is the Executive Vice President for Entitlements at DMB Associates. Thanks for joining us. First, what is the Arizona town hall?

Rebecca Timmer: Arizona town hall is nonprofit organization that was founded in 1962. This was the 105th Arizona town hall. What town hall does is brings together leaders from around Arizona from all walks and a a cross-section to focus on major issues that are impacting Arizona and build consensus on recommendations to help move whatever that topic is forward.

Ted Simons: It sounds like this topic, the major point of focus was employment trends, employment in general.

Karrin Taylor: It was really economic development. Past topics have been water and education and state land reform but this town hall focused on economic development and how do we move the state forward from an economic perspective.

Ted Simons: What were some of the ideas thrown around?

Karrin Taylor: Well, the big issues related to economic development are education and work force development. Infrastructure, tourism and really what do we do about Arizona's image in order to attract the high wage employers that we want to Arizona so that we can move our economy forward. Those were the primary areas of discussion.

Ted Simons: Let's start with the image. We heard about Arizona needs to figure out a brand and move forward. Is that the general consensus, that a brand is needed? What are you talking about when you mention image?

Rebecca Timmer: Well, I think everybody is aware that there's room for improvement when it comes to that. So the idea was to have in the future some folks come together to think about all aspects of Arizona and how we can improve on the brand and our image, whether it's tourism or our assets and how we can highlight them.

Ted Simons: So the assets I noticed geographical assets were mentioned. Unique assets to Arizona. What are you talking about there?

Karrin Taylor: Well, a number of things actually. Obviously our climate. Sunshine, which has driven our tourism industry for many years, which is one of our most important industries, the base industry bringing other people's money into our state. But in addition to that we have significant natural resources here, in particular in mining. We have had a long history of mining. One of the things discussed, however, at town hall some of the federal regulatory impediments that are preventing us from capitalizing on those assets.

Ted Simons: So what do you do about some of those regulatory elements?

Karrin Taylor: Well, there was a lot of discussion in our panel about that. Really the business community and local policy makers actively engaging with our congressional delegation and working with them to try to rein in the ever growing federal regulatory world.

Ted Simons: That sounds in this election year somewhat political. Are there partisan divides at the town hall? There are some who don't have too much problem with regulatory activity regarding the environment and those things.

Rebecca Timmer: I think all the participants come with their areas of expertise and their belief systems but the whole process that we go through builds consensus, so what is in the final report is agreed upon by everybody. There may be pieces and parts that people don't agree with every item but over all they agree with the report and it's a consensus of the group.

Ted Simons: Along with infrastructure education was mentioned as a major focus here. What can be done regarding education? What does a town hall think needs to be done?

Rebecca Timmer: One of the recommendations talks about funding. One of the terms used was cradle to career. So it's all aspects. I think another piece that was talked about was having a comprehensive plan, a review of where we are and how do we make it better. So that people understand where additional funding would go.

Ted Simons: Was there consensus with education or were there battle lines drawn?

Karrin Taylor: To follow up on Rebecca's comments about town hall being a place to convene people from various backgrounds, really come to consensus on these issue. The consensus on education was we have to make a private. We have properly fund it to pre-recession levels which we have not yet done. If we don't get this piece right we'll have difficulty on the over all economic development effort. Employers again when they look at Arizona, they want to make sure that they can come to a place that has a qualified work force. Right now they don't perceive us that way, so we have to get this piece of the puzzle right.

Ted Simons: Get the piece of the puzzle right, then get the branding right so people know the puzzle has benefited. As far as learning from other states, learning from other regions, was that discussed?

Karrin Taylor: We didn't talk a lot about specific examples. We did some in the conversation about incentives, what are appropriate government incentives to attract businesses to Arizona. Education again comes back to the fore. Education provides the quality of life, provides the work force employers need. Other states are doing a better job in that regard. Other states have other tools in their economic development tool box that we do not have that should be considered. And you know, other states have done a great job with their image. We look at our competitive set whether it's Colorado or Texas or Washington state. They are our competitor. We have to be able to project an image that they do. We haven't done that. So we need to look to the other states for lessons.

Ted Simons: Last question. What do you want people to take from the Arizona economy report coming out of town hall?

Rebecca Timmer: Well, I would hope that they would take the time to read it and as much as there are a variety of things that we want the legislature and the new governor to look at there's pieces in here for individuals that they can contribute to communities. The panel, all the panel members are going to be doing outreach programs within their communities to make sure they understand what was in there and how they can help. So I would hope the valuable information that's been put together will be shared and people will take it to heart.

Ted Simons: Very good. Thank you so much for joining us.

Rebecca Timmer: Thank you.

Rebecca Timmer:Corporate Relations, Dibble Engineering; Karrin Taylor:Executive Vice President for Entitlements, DMB Associates, Inc.;

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