Arizona is creating a new economic development organization, at least in part to compensate for the state’s lack of financial incentives to lure new business.
The new Arizona Economic Resources Organization would set the strategies for what types of industries Arizona wants and how to get them, according to Gov. Janet Napolitano. She also said this non-profit corporation would be responsible for “branding’’ Arizona, giving the state a national and international reputation as a home for the targeted businesses.
The governor, in a speech Thursday, said what makes this different from other economic development efforts is that it involves not just government agencies like the Department of Commerce but also private businesses as well as Science Foundation Arizona, which provides research grants, and the state’s universities, which are responsible for ensuring there are people trained in the skills the targeted firms will need.
“We’ve taken what heretofore have been a very kind of disparate, disorganized quite frankly, economic development strategy for the state ... into one strategy that’s going to drive all of our marketing efforts,” she said. “We’ve never before done that.”
In essence, Napolitano said, AERO will be “the strategic arm” of the state Department of Commerce.
Napolitano said Arizona needs to be more creative in marketing itself because the state does not have many of the incentives to land new businesses.
Some states can offer major tax breaks and even free property. In Arizona, however, the state can provide job training, with companies that locate in economic development areas entitled to some tax credits for hiring new workers.
“We have to be much more strategic and targeted in terms of who we’re growing here and who we’re trying to attract here,” she said.
Napolitano said there may be things that Arizona can legally do to help land new companies but they are not done because so many different economic development organizations, both public and private, are each working their own angles.
Napolitano also will formally incorporate and revamp the Arizona Global Network, currently made up largely of regional economic councils, with the specific task of actually marketing this yet-to-be-developed strategy to international corporations.
She said, though, none of this amounts to having a government-set top-down economic policy for the state. She said it simply takes organizations and entities that already exist “and puts them in a much more efficient structure so we get much better benefit of what they know and what they’re doing.”
“We ought to have a strategy that builds on what we already know about how to sell Arizona and what assets we already have, what economic clusters we already have,” she said.
Napolitano said setting up both groups as private corporations isn’t an effort to remove the process from public scrutiny.
“In terms of public participation, it will be very open, very transparent,” the governor said.
“We’re marketing Arizona,” she continued. “And so there’s no incentive to keep things secret.”