From an economic standpoint, Arizona has been, to borrow a phrase from Gov. Doug Ducey, “the brightest light in the nation.”
Ever since the Great Recession, our state has been building momentum, diversifying its business sectors and training the next generation of leaders.
The results: we ended 2019 with the third-highest year-over-year employment gain in the United States, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Exports also reached a record high last year and our state was projected to add an astounding 159,000 jobs by 2021.
The cities, towns and Native American communities in the PHX East Valley have been an American success story, too.
Our region celebrated some big economic development wins, with corporate relocations, the expansion of global companies like Deloitte and Northrup-Grumman, and the groundbreaking of a world-class hub for digital education at Arizona State University’s new campus in downtown Mesa.
We also heralded the growth and development of some the most creative entrepreneurial startups and small businesses imaginable.
COVID-19 has changed that trajectory, yet I believe our state and region will emerge from this crisis stronger than ever.
Restarting our economy is a critical factor in making this happen, but our approach to re-emerging from this crisis must be slow and steady. That is, we must balance the health and well-being of our citizens with the need to get back to work.
In my view, the governor’s plan does just that.
What I like most about his approach is that it leads with public health. After all, in a situation with so many unknowns, we can’t take enough precautions.
Enlisting ideas from business leaders also is a plus because who knows better than restaurant, retail and other owners who live and breathe their businesses every day how to modify their operations successfully?
On a broader level, our leaders are also forging ahead with important economic development, education enhancements and quality of life initiatives.
Some cases in point:
City and town officials have stepped up efforts to reignite small businesses.
The Mesa City Council approved its largest master-planned development, which is projected to create 55,000 new jobs.
President Michael Crow and his team at the uber-innovative Arizona State University are charting a course to transform our economy by laying the foundation for what technology-enhanced businesses are going to be.
None of this work should come as a surprise. After all, in Arizona and the PHX East Valley, our greatest asset is the ingenuity of our people who work together for a common goal.
This includes those who shape policies for our cities and towns, turn their bright ideas into enterprising ventures and build a pipeline of talent for today and tomorrow.
They are the reason our state added 350,000 private-sector jobs and boasted the fastest decline in the poverty rate nationwide since 2015. It’s also why Arizona welcomed with open arms 120,000 new residents between 2018-19.
COVID-19 has created a new normal for everyone. But in Arizona and especially in the PHX East Valley, our future is brighter than ever and our best days are yet to come.
Denny Barney is president and CEO of the PHX East Valley Partnership, a nonprofit, nonpartisan coalition of business leaders in the cities, towns and Native American communities known as the PHX East Valley.