Wanted: More engineers, more incentives to lure businesses, more education on a global scale about what the Valley and Arizona have to offer.
Those were among the Valley’s economic development needs cited at Economic Summit 2005, a gathering of top economic, academic and business leaders sponsored by the Greater Phoenix Economic Council on Friday at the Arizona Biltmore in Phoenix.
Still, despite laments about continuing gaps in the Valley’s job-creation strategy, the mood was generally upbeat as participants said the region should build on a growing list of accomplishments in the economic development arena.
Todd Bankofier, president of the Arizona Technology Council, said the recently completed Arizona legislative session was one of the most productive in the state’s history in producing incentives for hightech businesses. He cited measures to reduce business property and sales taxes and tax credits to encourage "angel" investments in start-up technology companies.
"(The legislators) set the table. Now, it’s up to the business community and academia to get the job done," he said. "The ball has been thrown over the net to us."
The next task will be to inform the public and business communities about the incentives that are available here, he said. "We can’t just talk to ourselves."
The need for effective public education also was stressed by Peter Slate, chief executive of Arizona Technology Enterprises, a company that commercializes new technologies developed by researchers at Arizona State University.
"One of the things I have learned . . . is (the importance of) this issue of global recognition — not just informing ourselves of what we’re up to, but informing the world of what we’re doing here," he said.
"What we have found is the effectiveness with which we are able to get our message out has a direct (impact) on the opportunities that come back to us."
Slade cited the contrast between Proposition 102, a measure that would have encouraged the transfer of university research discoveries to the commercial sector, which failed on last November’s election ballot, and approval of the angel funding bill in this year’s legislative session.
In the Proposition 102 campaign, "we probably underestimated the biggest and most vicious opponent, which was the lack of education and the lack of understanding. . . ." he said.
Participants also emphasized the need for a well trained workforce, especially a large supply of engineering talent, in attracting highpaying employers. Although the United States is losing manufacturing jobs to lowercost rivals overseas, the U.S. still is internationally perceived as the best place for doing design work, said Richard Seline, principal in New Economy Strategies, a consulting firm dealing with competitiveness issues.
But that may be in jeopardy too because the United States is losing its engineering base to countries like China and India that are producing far more newly trained engineers, he said.
Another barrier cited at the meeting was the need for more economic development incentives to offer companies considering relocating to Arizona. Despite the successes in the last legislative session, Arizona still lacks many of the tax and other incentives used by other states to attract jobs, said Joe Yuhas, deputy director of the Arizona Department of Commerce.