Arizona Commerce Authority prepares for second gubernatorial transition

The Arizona Commerce Authority (ACA), Arizona’s public-private partnership that seeks to attract business to the state and make starting a business here easier, is preparing to undergo its second gubernatorial transition. Founded by Gov. Jan Brewer, as part of a major legislative economic competitiveness package adopted in 2010, the economic development agency boasts a public-private board of directors chaired by the incumbent governor.

Gov. Doug Ducey, R, supported the ACA heavily during his eight year tenure in office, using it as a vehicle to expand industry and international investment in the state. His efforts paid off: a string of large companies including Taiwan Semiconductor, Intel, ElectraMeccanica, Nikola, and Lucid Motors have invested tens of billions in Arizona during his governorship. 

Upon announcing Intel’s $20 billion investment in an expanded semiconductor production operation in Chandler, CEO Pat Gelsinger applauded both the state of Arizona and the Biden Administration for working with the company to make the move worthwhile.

“To make our new expansion in Arizona possible, we are excited to be partnering with the state of Arizona and the Biden Administration on incentives that spur this type of domestic investment,” Gelsinger said.

From department to authority

Sandra Watson, president and CEO of the ACA, has served in the role since 2012. She was executive vice president and COO of the Arizona Department of Commerce before Brewer shuttered it to launch to the ACA.

Brewer believed a public-private partnership would further the state’s ability to work alongside industry to grow the economy, develop jobs for the next generation of Arizonans, and compete domestically and internationally “at the highest levels.”

“The key thing is they will be able to reach out to our surrounding competitors and business people throughout the global economy and work with them on a hands-on basis,” said Brewer upon signing Executive Order 2010-12, which transitioned the Commerce Department to the ACA.

Cautious optimism from business community

As Gov.-Elect Katie Hobbs prepares to take the oath of office next month, she will soon be the first Democratic governor to serve as the ACA board’s chairperson, and the first Democrat to oversee the agency.

During the campaign, Hobbs spoke at a gubernatorial candidate forum hosted by the Arizona Chamber of Commerce & Industry. She buoyed the hopes of job creators, saying then that she would not raise taxes on Arizonans and Arizona businesses, and would further Ducey’s economic agenda. 

Business community advocates are encouraged. 

Danny Seiden, president and CEO of the Arizona Chamber, said, “The business community looks forward to partnering with Gov.-Elect Hobbs to maintain and expand Arizona’s competitive, pro-growth environment. A central part of that vision includes continued support for the ACA, and a constant dialogue between government and job creators to ensure Arizona has a business environment that ensures the state maintains its position as one of the best in the country.”

Joe Pitts

Joe Pitts is pursuing a B.S. in management and a B.S. in civic and economic thought and leadership at Arizona State University.

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