Leaders in the field of manufacturing from across the state gathered at the Arizona Biltmore last Thursday for the Arizona Manufacturers Council’s Awards and Summit event. The event featured panel discussions and guest speakers from the industry and culminated with the Manufacturer of the Year awards ceremony recognizing those companies that have made significant positive contributions to the manufacturing and the broader state economy.
In his opening remarks, AMC Chairman Mark Gaspers congratulated the companies represented at the event for their resiliency during the pandemic and highlighted recent significant investments, including by Intel, which is in the midst of a $20 billion expansion in Chandler.
Workforce development in focus
A panel on the state’s manufacturing sector workforce featured Darcy Renfro, the chief workforce and economic development officer for Maricopa County Community College District; Kolu Wilson, workforce program deputy administrator for the Arizona Office of Economic Opportunity; Dave Garfano, executive director of the Arizona Manufacturing Extension Partnership; and was moderated by Dawn Grove, general counsel at Karsten Manufacturing and the past chair of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce & Industry and previous chair of the AMC.
The main focus of the panel was the work that various businesses and community colleges were putting in to prepare young people for the workforce. One such example is Drive 48, a program at Central Arizona College that trains prospective workers for hands-on manufacturing jobs with a special focus on advanced automotive manufacturing, which is essential for the new Lucid electric vehicle plant in Casa Grande.
The panelists were in agreement that there are many programs for both workers and businesses to take advantage of to obtain additional training and recruit new skilled workers.
Sober assessment from U.S. Rep. David Schweikert
Arizona Chamber President and CEO Danny Seiden interviewed Arizona United States Rep. David Schweikert, who spoke about the activity on Capitol Hill surrounding President Joe Biden’s attempts to pass both a bipartisan infrastructure bill and a multi-trillion-dollar social spending package known as Build Back Better, which contains a litany of tax increases that would harm job creators.
Schweikert also urged businesses to become more involved in the issues that are pertinent to their success saying that he’s concerned “business has lost its voice.”
Schweikert hit an optimistic tone, however, on the rate of life changing innovations hitting the market. He spoke about the possibility of a cure for Type 2 diabetes in the near future saying that it “could be the best thing our society does.”
Gov. Ducey touts economic achievements
Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey closed out the summit portion of the program. “We’ve run a marathon in our state,” Ducey said referring to Arizona’s experience in the pandemic.
The governor said the economy is rebounding to a point where it’s surpassing the pre-Covid economy.
Ducey took the opportunity to remind the audience of the things that set Arizona apart from other states. He touted his administration’s work to push back against “anti-growth policies” that slow economic growth. Arizona, he said, can go toe-to-toe with other states such as Texas and Colorado in winning new job investments.
The event concluded with an awards ceremony that honored state businesses and leaders for everything from innovation and sustainability to economic contributions. The honorees were:
- 2021 Advocate of the Year: Steve Trussell of the Arizona Rock Products Association and the Arizona Mining Association
- 2021 Legislator of the Year: State Sen. Sine Kerr
- 2021 Excellence in Innovation Award: CP Technologies
- 2021 Excellence in Sustainability Award: Lucid Motors
- 2021 Small Manufacturer of the Year: S & A Industries
- 2021 Medium Manufacturer of the Year: EMD Electronics
- 2021 Large Manufacturer of the Year: Dexcom
- 2021 Economic Driver: Intel