Arizona business leaders were urged Friday to avoid complacency as they continue their efforts to jump start the state’s economy.
Although the state has made some major gains since the economic slump following Sept. 11, 2001, much work remains, according to speakers at the Business Coalition Summit Friday in downtown Phoenix.
"You call this a summit; I call it a start," said Gov. Janet Napolitano as she urged the group to support her education and economic development agenda.
The summit was attended by about 250 members of the coalition, which is composed of nine economic development organizations in the Valley and Tucson. The East Valley Partnership is one of those organizations.
The coalition was organized under the leadership of Bill Post, chairman of Pinnacle West Capital Corp., in the wake of Sept. 11 to coordinate economic development activities and get the state’s sluggish economy moving.
The coalition has focused on three major categories: Economic engines such as biosciences and university research, which could create jobs; human talent through such programs such as expanded kindergartens that will develop the state’s future work force; and physical resources such as transportation infrastructure, which will help to attract new businesses to the state.
Napolitano especially emphasized the importance of all-day kindergarten, saying studies have demonstrated that reaching children early in their lives is important for educational achievement needed in the knowledge economy.
About one-third of Arizona school districts offer all-day kindergarten, but parents either have to pay for the extra time or districts have to divert money from other programs to fund it, she said.
Business support was crucial to getting the full-day program approved by the Senate Education Committee, Napolitano said, and she urged business leaders to continue to support the measure as it works its way through the Legislature.
Roc Arnett, chief executive of the East Valley Partnership, said the regional approach to economic development is working for the East Valley. He cited the regional transportation plan, which will funnel $6.2 billion to the East Valley if it is approved by county voters in November, and recognition by the rest of the Valley of the importance of developing Williams Gateway Airport.
By joining the coalition "we have brought attention to issues that are important to the East Valley," he said. In turn, the business group is supporting projects that are important to Phoenix such as the Phoenix Civic Plaza expansion, which he said will benefit the East Valley.
"It’s a fact of life that during World Series-type events, hotels are filled in
the East Valley," he said.
Among the next steps sought by the coalition:
• Passage of a state constitutional amendment to encourage technology transfer from universities to the commercial sector.
• Preservation of U.S. military bases in Arizona.
• Funding for all-day kindergartens.
• Voter approval of the Valleywide transportation plan; and
• Continued redevelopment and improvements in downtown areas.