This column by Arizona Chamber of Commerce & Industry President and CEO first appeared at azcentral.com.
In the wake of the 2008 financial crisis — a disaster that wreaked havoc disproportionately on Arizona households and businesses — state leaders established the Arizona Commerce Authority (ACA) with the goal of recharging and diversifying our economy to better withstand future downturns.
The ACA, which was created by then-Republican Gov. Jan Brewer along with a conservative supermajority in the state Legislature, represented a public-private partnership, featuring input from some of the brightest minds in the private sector.
What Governor Brewer started was continued by her successor, Republican Gov. Doug Ducey, and by any measure, the ACA has been a huge success.
Despite this success, inexplicably, legislation has been introduced to actually dismantle this agency and its programs with no plan for what comes next.
I can’t think of anything more damaging to Arizona’s future, our businesses and our workers.
Since 2011, the ACA has successfully landed more than 1,200 competitive projects.
These expansions have led to a projected 272,803 new jobs with more than $115 billion invested in local communities.
Much to the credit of the ACA, Arizona has risen from the depths of the Great Recession to become an advanced manufacturing powerhouse, with even more opportunity ahead.
Last year, we attracted more foreign investment than any state, we’re No. 1 for new jobs in the all-important semiconductor industry, and we boast one of the fastest employment growth rates in the country.
These jobs have led to an explosion of economic opportunity, especially for those on the bottom of the income ladder. Nearly 300,000 Arizonans have left poverty since 2011, lending proof to President Reagan’s mantra: “the best social program is a job.”
Getting rid of the ACA would halt our momentum and set us back more than a decade. It would put a massive “CLOSED FOR BUSINESS” sign on our great state.
In fact, the effort to kill the ACA should be called “The Texas and California Jobs Act.” These are our top competitors.
Right now, we’re beating them, and punching above our weight. While these and other states write checks to win jobs, here, we focus on free market principles and demonstrating that Arizona offers the greatest value long-term.
Without the ACA, state revenue will take a major hit. Arizona’s experience shows the best remedy for a budget deficit is a growing economy, with revenues rising 52% since 2015 (even with tax cuts) — an especially important fact given our current shortfall.
Closing the ACA would be especially harmful to small business owners. That’s because the ACA is the state’s primary tool to help small businesses, offering everything from classes that teach digital skills to programs that support startups and local manufacturers.
Eliminating the ACA would cripple rural communities the most. As the state’s only statewide economic development agency, the ACA gives rural communities a voice and seat at the table when companies are considering expanding in Arizona.
These communities will be left to fend for themselves, cutting off access to new jobs and investment and greatly diminishing their long-term prospects.
These devastating consequences just barely scratch the service of the pain Arizonans will experience if we shutter the Arizona Commerce Authority. Beyond thousands of lost jobs and billions in forgone investment:
- workforce development programs will end, closing off pathways for Arizonans to gain new career skills;
- investments in broadband will stop, harming the rural communities most in need of this digital infrastructure;
- statewide efforts to grow key industries like semiconductors will be stymied;
- and Arizona-based businesses will lose out on substantial new growth potential.
Last year, we released an analysis of “job-killing” legislation — failed ideas that would result in the loss of more than 100,000 jobs if enacted.
The ludicrous idea to eliminate the ACA tops them all, and with the economy remaining a top concern for Arizonans, any lawmaker who actively votes to kill jobs will have to answer to that on Election Day.
Continuing the ACA and keeping our economic momentum going should be a slam dunk for lawmakers of both parties. Extending the ACA means more jobs, less poverty, fewer people dependent on government services, more workforce training pathways, and a brighter future for our kids and grandkids.
Our economy is one of the nation’s strongest, but that didn’t happen by accident. The Arizona Commerce Authority has been essential to the state’s job growth.
To close it would put all our gains at risk.
Danny Seiden is the president and CEO of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce & Industry.