We’re hours away from ringing in 2020! But before the ball drops and before we pop the champagne, it’s time for Arizona’s favorite year-end tradition, Glenn Hamer’s Ham(m)er Awards, where the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry president and CEO looks back at the people and events of 2019.
If you’ve been reading Glenn’s commentaries throughout 2019, you can probably guess what this year’s theme is going to be.
Trade, trade, trade. We’re on the edge of the adoption of the most important trade deal in a generation and there’s a lot of praise to go around.
We also had a big year on water with passage of the Drought Contingency Plan. Finally, the state continues to be at the top of the leaderboard when it comes to education funding and reforms that drive results.
When you add it all up, we live in one of the fastest-growing states in the country, with the fastest-growing county (Maricopa) and big city (Phoenix), with now more jobs than people to fill them.
Here’s who and what stood out to me in the year that was…
The Jim Kolbe Congressional Trade Hero Award
This Ham(m)er is named for my first boss in Arizona politics. (I was a law school fellow, but he says I was an intern.) Former U.S. representative Jim Kolbe was essential to getting the original trilateral trade agreement, NAFTA, through Congress. He will always be royalty in trade circles.
The award goes to Rep. Greg Stanton. The so-called freshman stepped up early and often to make the case for USMCA among his fellow Democrats. I call him a “so-called” freshman because few lawmakers on Capitol Hill arrived on the job with his level of insight into one of the most important issues before Congress.
He and 13 of his Democratic colleagues penned a letter to Speaker Nancy Pelosi in August on the importance of bringing USMCA up for a vote. He tapped into his experience as the former mayor of Phoenix, where he led 18 trade missions to Mexico—our friend, neighbor, and ally. He brought the relationship between Mexico and Arizona back and elevated it.
Mexico and Canada are Arizona’s top trading partners—by far—and our state needs these countries to continue to invest, travel and trade with us to be successful. Few understand that better than Rep. Stanton.
Most Deserving of Nobel Peace Prize Award Award
United States Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer.
In a meeting with about a dozen Arizona business leaders in 2018, Ambassador Lighthizer said that he wanted a revised trade deal with Mexico and Canada that would pass overwhelmingly in Congress and receive the endorsement of Tom Donohue, the head of the U.S. Chamber, and Richard Trumka, the head of the AFL-CIO. Let’s just say that this seemed like a stretch at the time.
Well, both men did endorse the deal and the USMCA passed the House with the most votes of any trade pact since the very first U.S. free trade agreement, which was signed with Israel way back in 1985. For his work, Ambassador Lighthizer gets a Ham(m)er.
The Trade Supergroup Award
Think of this Ham(m)er Award as recognition of a group effort—a supergroup effort along the lines of the Traveling Wilburys. Many inside and outside the Beltway had a hand in the House’s passage (and soon-to-be Senate passage) of the USMCA. The U.S. Chamber’s Myron Brilliant, John Murphy and Neil Bradley all did outstanding work, as did the National Association of Manufacturers’ Linda Dempsey. The Wilson Center’s Mexico Institute, under the leadership of the swashbuckling Duncan Wood and his partner in crime Chris Wilson, puts out useful content on a daily basis.
The best chamber of commerce trade advocate outside of D.C., Paola Avila of the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce (home to the Western Hemisphere’s busiest land border crossing!), positioned the agreement for success. A Ham(m)er is also deserved by our friends in Mexico, starting with José Andrés Garcia for scheduling an insane amount of high impact meetings for business leaders. At a state legislative level, Arizona state Rep. César Chávez was an important leader inside and outside of Arizona advocating for USMCA and giving the deal some bipartisan chops. Thanks also go to Arizona Morena leader Lorena Schmit and my volunteer Spanish-language publicist and the owner of Pescaderia el Puerto de Guayman Irayda Flores. Finally, I want to thank Garrick Taylor of our shop who does a better job of articulating the case for trade and explaining tariffs better than anyone I know.
The Paul Fannin Legacy Award
This Ham(m)er Award goes to the Arizona-Mexico Commission, the best run gubernatorial commission in the U.S. Under the direction of Gov. Doug Ducey, Senior Advisor Juan Ciscomani, President Jessica Pacheco, and secret weapon and consultant Luis Ramírez, the commission is tremendously effective on every level. Paul Fannin, the former Arizona governor, founded the organization 60 years ago, and in 2019 the AMC lived up to his vision in major ways.
Start with its work on USMCA, where the commission developed a special website that outlined trade’s importance to all 50 states. No U.S. governor was more active in pushing USMCA than Gov. Ducey. His fireside chat with Ambassador Lighthizer moderated by U.S. Chamber President Suzanne Clark, energized the nation’s top chamber leaders at a September meeting and motivated the business community to make a final push for the agreement’s passage.
Beyond USMCA, the AMC’s work on behalf of Arizona’s ports of entry helped secure $150 million for San Luis. Our chamber joins the AMC in its continued advocacy for important initiatives on tourism, transportation, education, streamlined cargo inspections—you name it. Kudos to the AMC for a great, Ham(m)er Award-winning year.
Albert Einstein Leader of the Year
This Ham(m)er Award goes to our senior senator, Kyrsten Sinema. She’s a genius. Her poll numbers are sky-high and it’s no wonder. She has the most bipartisan voting record in the U.S. Senate. In addition to running in endurance races all over the world (she set a personal record at Ironman New Zealand) and being a model of bipartisanship, she is putting points on the board. Take a look at her recent win on a seven-year reauthorization of the Ex-Im Bank—a huge deal for Arizona manufacturers who want to reach customers beyond U.S. shores. Her work on rebalancing trade policy powers between the executive branch and Congress can be legacy-type stuff.
The Ping-Pong Diplomacy Award
Give the Phoenix Suns a Ham(m)er for their return to Mexico City. It was a big deal. The game against the Spurs was an overtime thriller before a sold-out crowd of 20,013 fans who loved the game. (The same can’t be said for the officiating.) Kudos to my friend Maria Lourdes Delgado of Visit Phoenix for leading a business group to the game, and to the team at Molera Alvarez and Arizona Lodging and Tourism Association boss Kim Sabow for helping pull the trip together.
Sports are a great export industry for us. The Yankees and Red Sox headed to London in 2019, but give me Mexico any time. I can’t wait for the Diamondback to play ball in Mexico City in 2020 in the first regular season games ever in that country.
Bipartisan Accomplishment of the Decade Award
The Drought Contingency Plan.
What a way to close out the 21st century’s second decade. Start with the work of Gov. Ducey, Central Arizona Project’s Ted Cooke and Arizona Department of Water Resources honcho Tom Buschatzke, who grinded out a deal on a water stewardship plan that earned near unanimous approval in the state Legislature. Ensuring the health of Lake Mead and the Colorado River requires adult leadership, which is what Senate President Karen Fann, House Speaker Rusty Bowers, House Minority Leader Charlene Fernandez, and state Sen. Lisa Otondo delivered. When the baton was passed to Capitol Hill, Sen. Martha McSally and House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Raúl Grijalva grabbed it and got the Drought Contingency Plan through Congress.
Outside the elected officials, the efforts of Valley Partnership President and CEO Cheryl Lombard were indispensable, as were her fellow members of the Governor’s Steering Committee and Water Augmentation Council. They all deserve Ham(m)ers for ensuring that Arizona’s water future remains secure.
Best Motivational Speech on Education Award
It’s not quite a Grand Slam championship, but tennis great Andre Agassi deserves a Ham(m)er. He wowed a crowd of charter advocates at the 25th anniversary gala of the Arizona Charter School Association with his reflection on why he entered this arena: to give kids quality educational choices.
It was a special evening for the Association, which honored education choice pioneer Lisa Graham Keegan and named an award in her honor. The work of the Charter School Association—now under the outstanding leadership of Jake Logan—and the entire education choice movement has changed lives for the better.
The Tony, Tony, Tony Award
State Rep. Tony Rivero.
No, it’s not a 90s R&B throwback. This award is named for the state legislator who once again proved to be the driving force at the Legislature for raising Arizona’s global profile.
Rep. Rivero has led the effort to increase Arizona’s trade presence in Mexico and, in 2019, he was the prime mover for the establishment of a trade office in Israel, a world tech superpower.
A few years ago, he led a bipartisan delegation of about 15 lawmakers to Mexico. This year he topped that with a group of 18 lawmakers to mark the opening of the trade office. For all of that, he certainly deserves a Ham(m)er.
The Art of the Deal Award
State Rep. Ben Toma.
This Ham(m)er goes to the lawmaker who put together the most significant tax reform deal since the original jobs package that marked the beginning of the decade of economic recovery and chart-topping growth.
The deal that Rep. Toma shepherded to passage included massive simplification, a reduction in our top individual income tax rate, and a reform to online sales tax collection.
My Main Man Award
A.P. Powell gets the nod. A.P. has created an environment where, by working with veteran advocates like Admiral Hal Pittman, various groups are working together to improve policies at all levels of government for our military veterans. There’s nothing ordinary about A.P.’s background—it’s fascinating. Give him a follow on Instagram and you’ll see what I mean and why I love rolling with him…and why he deserves a Ham(m)er.
The Tom Seaver You Can Come Home Again Award
Every year I sprinkle in some baseball heroes of my youth. This year’s edition is named for the Cy Young Award winner and Hall-of-Famer whose long career included two stints with my hometown New York Mets. This Ham(m)er goes to former state treasurer Jeff DeWit, who’s now the COO at NASA. DeWit returned to Arizona in October for Manufacturing Month to deliver an update on the space agency before a packed Arizona Manufacturers Council audience.
Don’t be surprised next year if we recognize the contributions of Barbara Barrett, the former Arizona Chamber Heritage Award winner whose nomination to be secretary of the Air Force sailed through the confirmation process, or ASU’s Dr. Sethuraman “Panch” Panchanathan, who’s been nominated to be the next director of the National Science Foundation. All three are making Arizona proud on a different stage.
Art of the Selfie Award
Formerly of the Arizona-Mexico Commission and now with the Arizona Lodging and Tourism Association, Karin has helped me develop a special appreciation for the art of the selfie photo. (My kids have put the kibosh on me taking any selfies involving them.)
Karin is everywhere and, in every selfie, looks happy and proud to be representing her organization—and she is! Karin is a great champion of trade, tourism and the relationship with Mexico, too.
We end the year on all sorts of positive. Wishing all a healthy and Happy New Year. Let’s make the 20s our best decade yet!
Glenn Hamer is president and CEO of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry.