New GPEC President and CEO

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The Greater Phoenix Economic Council, which works to bring businesses into the Phoenix area, has a new leader. Meet new GPEC president and CEO Chris Camacho and hear his vision for the organization.

Ted Simons: For about 25 years the Greater Phoenix Economic Council has worked to attract businesses to the Phoenix area and support efforts to make the region more competitive. Joining us now is the new President and CEO of GPEC, Chris Camacho. Good to have you, thanks for joining us.

Chris Camacho: Thank you very much for having me.

Ted Simons: Let's start by defining terms here. What is gpec?

Chris Camacho: Greater phoenix economic council. It's the economic development strategy arm of the market. Our main charter to induce new companies in selection processes, diligent processes to select Arizona, metro Phoenix. And we're fortunate to have 22 mayors and the board of supervisors working collectively on one economic plan, which is really unique. We also have a number of private sector investors, 180 in fact, that invest in GPEC to drive the economic strategy along with these mayors and county supervisors.

Ted Simons: Compare to another economic innovator with the Arizona commerce association. It seems like there are some similarities there, talk to us about it.

Chris Camacho: Our counterparts, the Arizona Commerce Authority, they drive the state strategy. They work closely with the governor's office and are funded by the legislature. They drive the state brand, the foreign investment platform and work very closely with us on administering the policies. They are the entity that has the luxury of managing all those policies that lawmakers pass, and we work very closely with them as we're out driving businesses to the market. They serve on the back end side of serving those companies and going through that process.

Ted Simons: As far as working with cities in the Phoenix area municipalities and working with lawmakers in the county and state as such, but working with everyone, how does that work? How do you get it done?

Chris Camacho: Economic development is a team sport. It takes the public sector to come together albeit at the state regional or local level, tied to one economic strategy. Our focus is aligning strategy on high-wage jobs, base industries that create high-wage jobs and per capita wealth for the market. We have been able to leverage successfully a number of private sector business leaders to tie into our models when. Companies come to this market, like Apple and interface with companies that have been here, that have been here, grown here and have scaled here. They get direct interface with the CEOs, they can talk about the business and customs and practices of being here and to really build talent. And really understand the operating environment that exists within Arizona.

Ted Simons: I know you've been with GPEC for a while but as President and CEO now, you're taking it forward. What has GPEC done well in the past, what does GPEC maybe need to improve from the past?

Chris Camacho: I'm the fourth President and CEO of this organization since 1989. Our legacy nationally is we're one of the top organizations that has the ability to produce dramatic result for the market. We're the frontline team that executes A branding and strategy communication model, and what we've done well is recruit companies. Our track record as such is that we've recruited over 600 companies to the market since our inception. We're recently in the last three years over 100 companies have entered the market through GPEC. The challenge is the last five years, I've been at GPEC for 7, is the market and the brand really around the recover strategy. So we have from the worst recession we've experienced, certainly a lot of the clouds over Arizona for the last few years in this recovery period, we're coming off the Super Bowl and the waste management open, and there's an entirely a new view on Arizona. Having the global CEO markets analyzing Arizona and seeing Arizona in a brand-new light, going forward we have a great opportunity to showcase our information, communication, technology, talents. Our legacy industry like aerospace and defense. The advanced electronic sector as well. There's so much happening in this market and I think we can do a great job of telling about Arizona.

Ted Simons: And there is so much happening in the market, you mentioned aerospace and Apple and technology and stuff. So much of that is happening in other cities as opposed to Phoenix and downtown Phoenix. Downtown Phoenix is certainly growing, and the change is amazing but it could grow a little more. You take light rail, you could still see a lot of land out there right before the picking. What's going on with that? How come we're not seeing better development there.

Chris Camacho: That's a new effort we're undertaking that with Valley Metro and City of Phoenix. If you look at established urban economies, They are centered around transit corridors and concentrations of technology companies. Part of the process for GPEC is now looking into market and concentration and innovation quotient so we can grasp what types of technology companies are growing and market and how do cities start to place make. What I mean by that, how do we align the various technology interests of this market in a concentrated area? Metro Phoenix is very spread out. We have a number of these different technology nodes that operate today. The goal would ultimately be to operate those where we have density and concentration that people can dramatically recognize. That's something new we're undertaking is moving to 15.

Ted Simons: Getting into Tempe and Chandler and Mesa, if it means out there, you know, the apple area, the price road corridor, these corridors we keep hearing about and getting them to work together and getting them to expand together.

Chris Camacho: It's ironic, I was on a call just before I stepped from the studio today with DMB. 4 years ago I sat before a large group talking about building unemployment centers and how important it is to come together as a private sector and recognizing, in a world of global competition, how we have to have sights that are prepared from the infrastructure standpoint. We have all the other attributes of a market that make us really attractive. Ensuring that we have large scale entitled development-ready sites. And at the time Even before solar or apple came into the market, we were strategizing this Elliot and Ellsworth corridor, that's a great example. We were building this conversation off the success of Chandler and price road. And there's a number of west valley site as well where We're going through the same process to make sure we have these large employment center sites stage for the next 20 years of development. As these technologies come into the market they asses the labor concentration models exists and certainly asses infrastructure as well.

Ted Simons: For those who say you're a greater phoenix economic council, and right now, phoenix itself needs a lot of help at the core of the Downtown area and this activity is happening on the outskirts. You say not necessarily a bad thing?

Chris Camacho: I'm a big believer in urban development. The health of the Core is critically important. Our close work with Mayor Stanton and certainly the economic stuff is really, how do we turn midtown and the downtown core around this new urban technology, really a new urban economy model. We've seen a lot of organic movement in the early stage start-up space. We're seeing a lot of interest in incubators, accelerators, in that downtown core that will reduce organic activity to occur and that's what you want to see. If you look at what ASU's done with their investment in downtown, really reshaping the downtown marketplace. Bringing students, the wide generation downtown has really created this new dynamic. What you're going to see over the next five to seven years is a dramatic shift in the concentration of the type of employment occurring in our downtown core.

Ted Simons: And the type of employment is a big deal for a lot of folks. They don't want to see minimum wage jobs or journeyman kind of jobs. High wage, high skill jobs that's what everyone wants. Is it a balancing act? Do you want to see something maybe a little more prestigious or a little more high-paying?

Chris Camacho: Yeah so the focus for a lot of our urban density models. They're really focused on how do we ensure of the complimentary ecosystem that supports these start up systems. There will certainly be a lot of room for call centers. We have a lot of land as well. Most will go to Suburban markets because of the land space, but there's still opportunities in Phoenix. 85% of our projects today, when they call us, 275 active projects in our pipeline, want existing space today. When you see that a 22% vacancy in office and about a 12% vacancy industrial, we have a lot of product to sell. I think it's all about how did we stage this next growth boom that's going to happen, we're already under way. The level of activity that I'm seeing in our pipeline today is the best in my seven years at GPEC. Moving forward, it's all about place-making, working closely with our 22 cities, and how do they complement the innovation ecosystem because we can have 22 cities of embedded innovators. We have to have complementary communities that drive the regional aggregation of technology jobs. That's what we're trying to build here at GPEC

Ted Simons: Last question. For those who say the Valley is really underperforming, when they look at Austin or San Diego, Denver and even Salt Lake City, when they say this first of all, do you agree? Secondly, what are you going do about it?

Chris Camacho: I don't agree at all, here's why. So what's happening, in the last seven years, we've made major strides in our innovation position. We've had major strides in incubators and accelerators. The start-up community has evolved dramatically in the market in the last 7 years. If you look at the software jobs that are in this market, generally when you think technology, you think software, internet gaming, we've grown more jobs than both Austin and Denver over that last five-year period. The projection over the next 10 is we'll outpace those markets in software job growth. And actually, we were laughing about this, We hear a lot of interest in California companies and they think Austin, Phoenix and Denver. When I think about the data that we're required to produce to support these companies, we have a larger concentration of software companies than Denver, Colorado today. Most people don't know that. It goes back to my brand interest of pushing that communication and that work.

Ted Simons: Well good luck to you. Thanks for joining us, we appreciate it.

Chris Camacho: Thank you very much, appreciate it.

Ted Simons: That is it for now. I'm Ted Simons, thank you so much for joining us. You have a great evening.

Chris Camacho:President and CEO, Greater Phoenix Economic Council;

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