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Arizona faces future with specific ideas for economic growth

PHOENIX — Over the next six years, Arizona leaders hope to lead the nation in aerospace, biotechnology, and international trade.

To get there, Gov. Jan Brewer said Arizona needs to keep its focus.

Six years ago, the state was heading into the housing crisis with home values falling, unemployment creeping toward a record high, the state budget hemorrhaging, and classrooms taking a $130 million hit.

“We took a dive because the economy across the world kind of dumped,” she said. “We had some bad practices managing our resources.”

Brewer was Secretary of State at the time and remembered lawmakers were on a spending spree.

“And, when the economy turned on us and the housing market went south, we were worse off than any other state in the country, per capita. So, we had to come in and make Arizona competitive again.”

Upon her swearing-in, Brewer said she went to work.

“I had to cut the budget, I had to do tax reform and create jobs. That’s what we have done.”

Four years later, housing numbers have ricocheted, construction is on track, and Governor Brewer said global economies, like India’s, are noticing.

“They were so impressed with what we’ve been able to do here in the state of Arizona. We were business friendly and very understanding of what it takes to get businesses to come here.”

She didn’t do it alone. She went there with Arizona’s Commerce Authority, once a foundering agency, now guided by business visionaries such as Jerry Colangelo.

While the economy was tanking, Colangelo was being hailed into the Phoenix Suns’ Ring of Honor by the legendary team broadcaster Al McCoy.

“In (Colangelo’s) 39-year career, he’s had a lot of roles: general manager, coach, managing general partner, chief executive officer …” he read on for several more lines.

When the governor asked Colangelo to join the group it took a 180-degree turn.

“We privatized it,” he said. “We became a board of business leaders in the community, who had, I would say, a better grasp than politicians about how to run a business and promote a business.”

But, he said none of it will make a difference if we forget to invest in Arizona’s most important resource: “Education, so our young people are better prepared to chase the challenges of the future.”

Brewer said, “The bottom line is we’ve got to continue to keep our budget in line. We have to make sure that we have a highly skilled workforce because we’re moving into aerospace and high technology. And, if we can do that, the jobs will come.”