Arizona Chamber President and CEO Danny Seiden testified before the Arizona state Senate Commerce Committee last week, delivering a “State of Arizona Business” address to committee members.
Seiden began his testimony by highlighting Arizona’s competitive economic rankings against other states, indicating that the state’s economic climate is going in the right direction.
“We are ranked number 1 on economic performance, and number 3 on economic outlook by Rich State Poor States,” said Seiden, referring to the annual rankings of states in several economic performance categories. “Our economic ranking has gone from 19 to number 7 and job growth, which is very important, went from number 12 to number 1.” Seiden also mentioned the outsized role that the expansion of Arizona’s advanced manufacturing industry has played in making Arizona more economically prosperous.
Seiden stressed throughout his testimony that policy matters, and that the state’s economic success to-date was no accident. He argued that government and industry needs to focus on three broad categories through at least 2030 to build on this prosperity: talent, competitiveness, and infrastructure.
Seiden said that there “is a war for talent right now” and that the state needs to prioritize education, which produces the workforce of tomorrow, and that the state and private enterprise both play an important role in developing and attracting a skilled workforce to the state of Arizona.
“If you poll our members, businesses’ number 1 issue across the board is talent and workforce shortages,” Seiden said. Such shortages could be solved through further development of the state’s workforce development pipeline. Universities, trade schools, community colleges, and the state’s K-12 education system are integral to the fulfillment of that mission.
In his discussion on competitiveness, Seiden focused on unemployment, household income, and tourism. The state’s unemployment rate is 4.1% right now, with the workforce participation rate at 60%.
Seiden emphasized the need for lawmakers to focus on developing and maintaining the infrastructure that businesses need to operate and grow. Infrastructure is a key for attracting new business to Arizona. He signaled support for further investment in roads, telecommunications, energy systems, and water infrastructure. “Our manufacturers love knowing that they have reliable energy here in Arizona. We need to work with Salt River Project, Arizona Public Service, Southwest Gas, and Tucson Electric to make sure” the state continues to produce reliable energy, he said.
The tax climate and Arizona’s new flat income tax make it even easier for business to grow in Arizona, he argued. “In the last 18 months we have had tremendous success, we have reduced commercial property tax, we have reduced business personal property valuation tax.”
Seiden also unveiled the Arizona Chamber Foundation’s 10-year plan, known as “Arizona 2030”. The plan focuses on the three major categories he discussed earlier in his testimony: talent, workforce, and infrastructure. In 10 years, Arizona is projected to have a population of over 8 million people, necessitating coordination between industry and government to manage growth.The population is projected to hit 9 million by 2040, with Arizona outpacing national growth by two times. Seiden concluded his testimony by saying that “Arizona is well-positioned for future growth, but we cannot go backward.”
“The Chamber stands with you and will partner with you this session as you evaluate additional policies that will help us with our talent, competitiveness, and infrastructure.”