Trip to Taiwan and South Korea reveals strength of Arizona brand

My recent trip to Taiwan and South Korea as part of a delegation led by Gov. Doug Ducey was a chance to share with business and government leaders Arizona’s approach to business and why the state is such an attractive place for investment.

Our group, which also included Arizona Commerce Authority CEO Sandra Watson, didn’t have to do much selling, though. Arizona’s reputation as a welcoming, business-friendly state preceded us.

We heard it from executives with TSMC, the semiconductor manufacturer making a multi-billion-dollar investment in the Phoenix area for the company’s next fabrication plants. The company said its dealings in Arizona at all levels of government had been characterized by a desire to get things done and cut through red tape.

From both business and government, we heard about the tremendous opportunity presented by passage of the CHIPS and Science Act, bipartisan legislation that will help spur the production of semiconductors here in the U.S. and create new opportunities for investment from firms currently manufacturing almost exclusively in Asia. It’s good news for the diversification of the supply chain, as well as U.S. national security, ensuring that access to these essential component parts of our defense and aerospace technology isn’t dependent on one overseas source.

Words of praise were directed to Arizona’s two U.S. senators, Kyrsten Sinema and Mark Kelly, for their work to get the bill passed, proving that the benefits of a functioning U.S. Congress aren’t appreciated just here at home.

Speaking of praiseworthy U.S. senators, at every stop, without fail, our Taiwanese and Korean hosts extended their thanks to the service of the late Sen. John McCain. No U.S. leader was more consequential and indispensable in the cause of freedom and solidarity with those striving to throw off the shackles of tyranny than Sen. McCain.

We got an up-close look at the power of his work and beliefs. Taipei is a bustling, modern metropolis. It celebrates innovation and free enterprise. But mainland China looms large, attempting to assert its position over Taiwan with regular military exercises and shows of force in the Taiwan Strait, which only increase in frequency when U.S. leaders like Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb, whose own delegations preceded ours, visit.

In South Korea, we got an object lesson in the power of markets over central planning and command and control. Anyone who’s looked at a satellite image of the Korean peninsula at night can see how the vibrant economic powerhouse that is South Korea outshines figuratively and literally its Hermit Kingdom neighbor to the north.

In a meeting with Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen, we were proud to extend our support to the people of Taiwan in their pursuit of democratic self-governance and to commit to strengthened Arizona-Taiwan ties, including the opening of an Arizona trade office in Taipei, which Gov. Ducey rightly called “a sure recipe for success.”

Arizona is also soon to open a trade office in Seoul. It’s another excellent opportunity not only to extend the Arizona brand, but to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with a democracy in a tumultuous region. We were heartened by the thanks extended by South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol to all the Arizonans who fought in the Korean War.

While the conversations were always warm and positive, leaders in both countries couldn’t ignore the threat of inflation – it’s a global phenomenon – and its effect on production costs as the price of inputs spike. Additionally, we heard concerns about the global talent pipeline and whether nations like the U.S., South Korea and Taiwan will have the people power necessary to keep these enterprises growing. The work of Arizona’s universities to produce graduates ready to compete in today’s economy was noted throughout the trip, including Arizona State University’s concentration on increasing the number of engineering graduates.

Trips abroad are always a valuable chance to learn something new, and this one was an eye-opener. But sometimes they also confirm or refute assumptions. In this case, the confirmations were good news. Arizona’s reputation as one of the country’s best places to build a business is causing the world to take notice, and the state’s pursuit of public policy that will lead to job growth is paying off in a major way.

Danny Seiden is president and CEO of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce & Industry.

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