This week, chambers of commerce from across the state joined together at the Arizona State Capitol for the 2019 Advocacy Day at the Legislature hosted by Arizona Chamber Executives (ACE). Anne Gill, President and CEO of the Tempe Chamber of Commerce and Chair of ACE explained that, the purpose of the event is “to hear from our state’s top officials about the biggest issues affecting the business community in 2019.” Speakers covered the top legislative issues affecting Arizona and the federal issues that impact the business community, specifically.
The event provides a great opportunity for rural chambers to give voice to their top priorities for 2019 and to share what they are doing to support businesses in their area.
John Courtis, Executive Director of the Yuma Chamber of Commerce expressed that due to Yuma’s deeply rooted (pun intended) impact and involvement in agriculture, water is one of their major priorities this year. “If we don’t have the DCP (Drought Contingency Plan) done, if we don’t get it done correctly, it will ruin Yuma. Yuma, with no water, no agriculture, there is no Yuma. Our location quotient for agriculture is 25, which means 1 in 4 businesses in Yuma County are dependent on agriculture.”
An additional focus for Yuma leaders is roads. “We have some serious infrastructure problems in Yuma County,” Courtis said. “The road from Arizona Western College to Yuma Proving Ground is the busiest two-lane road in the state.” The road is used by locals driving to and from work each day in conjunction with large corporations and the Army that are doing major tests at the Yuma Proving Ground. Upon speaking with consultants about the main road, Courtis said they “labeled it as a failed road.”
“What I love about Yuma is that people don’t care about who gets the credit, let’s just get the job done,” Courtis said.
The Lake Havasu Chamber of Commerce is also looking to address issues surrounding water as Lake Havasu plays a large role in their community. Lisa Krueger, president and CEO of the Lake Havasu Area Chamber of Commerce, said one of her top priorities for 2019 is water but “not just the drought contingency plan.”
According to Krueger, water issues include metropolitan areas trying to take water from rural Arizona because of their increased population size and the federal government’s attempts to shut down recreational water use in rural areas.
“Over the years, we’ve had to battle with the Feds to keep areas of Lake Havasu and the Colorado River open for recreation,” Krueger said. “In both cases, the local chambers and government entities were not even invited to the table to hear [why]. These agencies always seem a bit surprised when they do show up in Havasu to an audience of 1,000 or more residents who are vocal and protective of our community’s assets.”
Despite the water struggle, Lake Havasu does a great job of supporting local businesses. “We work in partnership with Go Lake Havasu, the tourism promotion entity and the Partnership for Economic Development, both contracted with the City, to market our city as a place to grow business and recreate. The Chamber works more specifically on nurturing businesses once established,” Krueger said.
The trend in addressing water concerns dominated the discussion with the chambers as Buckeye is also looking to find areas in which the precious resource can be saved. President and CEO of the Buckeye Chamber of Commerce Deanna Kupcik said that water is “very important to us because we’re exploding population wise.” Kupcik explained that one of the major areas that Buckeye is seeking reform to address the water issue is with the Salt Cedar trees along the Gila River. “They [Salt Cedars] drink up to 200 gallons of water a day. So if we could eradicate those, look at all the water we would have!”
Buckeye is supporting their business community and those looking to come to the city in the future by “putting in the needed infrastructure that manufacturers need. It is important to grow jobs as our population grows,” Kupcik said.
The Sierra Vista Chamber of Commerce, which had a change in leadership in the last six months, is putting its focus back on core functions- improving and strengthening their connection with and support for businesses. Executive Director Jennifer Martin explained that, “our goal is that we are working toward the three C’s, which is a new part of the chamber industry. So the three C’s stand for being a Champion of your community, being a Convener of leaders and influencers, and a Catalyst for business growth.” The chamber has been compiling lists that lay out what member-to-member benefits exist and businesses that support military personnel, which have a large presence in Sierra Vista with Fort Huachuca, with the intention to further support and connect individuals within the chamber and surrounding chambers.
Martin explained that within the Sierra Vista community they have a highly educated workforce. “Fort [Huachuca]is a major player in not only our state, but our country’s defense and other things,” said Martin. “We are a unique community and we kind of are the hub of the wheel with all of these smaller towns around us that come in. So, we really need to do a better job of saying, ‘we’re here, now let’s do something. Let’s fix what we need to fix and work together to make it even better than what it is.’”