Building Arizona’s Future: Jobs, Innovation and Competitiveness

This past April I attended the 96th Arizona Town Hall in Tucson Arizona.  The New Economy: A Guide For Arizona serves as background information on the event.  The result of the Town Hall was a set of recommendations (pdf).  Recently at Mesa Community College I was asked to speak about the experience and highlight my recommendations.  Below is my summary.

The Process

The process was good discussion, but it often felt that things were watered down quite a bit by the time they got recorded.  However, at the final session I saw the passion come back out and some good middle ground was found on a number of difficult issues.  If only our legislatures could come to agreement in this fashion.

Economic Development

Economic Development has changed.  It used to be about material resources and manufacturing infrastructure.  That is changing and now creative people are the most valuable resource.  Good companies move to where good people.  We must invest in human and social capital to be a player in the future.

Based on that I believe the following recommendations should have priority and we should concentrate on making them a reality.

Slide Rock

8. Preserve Quality of Life

We need to attract good people in the short term to fill the needs of growing companies emerging in the new economy.  Also, we need to retain the quality creators that are already here.  We can do this by preserving the quality of life.

a. Cultivate the arts, sports and other recreational amenities.

We need creatives to get involved with their local art scene.  Bring relevant programming to the great Performing Arts Centers many cities have.  Support existing programming and work to create new and diverse programs.  We need to convert empty buildings into Art galleries, centers for creation and music.

b. Preserve our natural and cultural resources.

We need to get the state legislature to restore funding to our State Park system and find ways to make sure it stays healthy.

c. Develop strong sense of place in our communities.

We need to encourage density and support third places that build a sense of place.

1. Education

We must start building our future now.  Our future lies in our youth.  We need to radically transform education to be a leader in how we restore creativity to schools.

a. Improve funding and rigorous statewide standards to meet workforce needs of business and industry.

It is time we get serious about funding schools and we restore learning to it’s roots and allow kids to explore and create.

7. Broadening the Tax Base

We need to have the proper way to pay for quality of life issues.  The best people want to live in a quality place.  We have to stop looking to be the Walmart of the world.  Low cost living, education and infrastructure attracts the people and employers that have bleak place in the future economy.

a. Implement a broad-based, diversified, and stable tax structure that does not rely disproportionately on sales tax.

We have to explore raising property taxes or finding other ways to balance providing necessary infrastructure.

11. Other Economic Development Actions

We need to grow businesses as much if not more than recruit them and then help them grow.  Jobs don’t create jobs.  Companies create jobs.  We need to focus on creating companies.

a. Fund business incubators, a competitive small grant program for start-ups and existing small businesses, and other small business assistance programs.

2. Strategic Planning

d. Address both recruitment of new businesses and retention of businesses and talent already present in Arizona.

4. Capital Formation

We need to have capital available for those companies as they grow.

d. Encourage AZ individuals, foundations, and industry to invest in an AZ “fund of funds” to provide venture captial for the early-stage development of new companies.

We need people to invest in seed funds to encourage creation of new businesses.

6. Infrastructure

We need a quality infrastructure to promote growth.

a. Create a networked business environment through advances in our transportation system and data connectivity.

12. Other Activities that Influence Economic Development

a. Pursue comprehensive, multimodal transportation planning and design programs.

Summary

Don’t wait on the state legislature, you can help do this RIGHT now.  Look to entrepreneurs to get the ball rolling.  Participate in your local government and start making a difference.  Simply voting can start to unlock necessary change.  Be active in our future!

What is the Motivation of Making Gangplank Free?

A common question is “How does Gangplank work?  Why is everything free?”.  The common theory is that if you don’t charge people something they won’t see any value in it.  Maybe if they are working on an assembly line, but for creatives this just isn’t true.  Our value lies in three things..

1. Gangplank is nearly completely self-autonomous.  If something is missing someone steps up and does it or organizes with others to get it done.

2. Gangplank believes it’s okay to fail as long as you keep trying.  The goal is a journey of excellence.  Seek mastery in what you do.

3. Gangplank has purpose.  It believes that you should be making a positive impact in the community you live in.  Not just for today but in the long run.

None of this should be surprising or new.  Economists, Psychologists and Sociologists have been saying it for years.  I found this great talk from Dan Pink that is animated in real time that explains it well.

I hope this helps answer the question.

SBR: Linchpin by Seth Godin

Linchpin: Are You Indispensable? Linchpin: Are You Indispensable? by Seth Godin

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Seth is back. He really gets it right on this one. This is an excellent book to pair with Richard Florida’s Reset. The world and they way we work in it is radically changing.

This is a good book to help people get ahead during this great changing of industry. One of the better books I read this year. It is easy reading. If you put yourself to it you should be able to finish it in one sitting.

View all my reviews >>

The World is Changing and so is our Economy

We might be in the midst of a recession, but I don’t think we have seen anything yet.  Most of America is not willing to acknowledge a few key concepts.

1. Things won’t bounce back to where they were, expect recovery to be in decades not months.  A new normal has been set.

2. The old economy is dying.  The days of manufacturing things is now a commodity.  That other countries are able to much better and cheaper.

3. Our educational system is broken to prepare America’s youth for the new economy.

I understand that I sound like chicken little and at this point people are laughing at the mention of the sky falling.  I could point to statistics and reputable journalists, but perhaps the best thing to do is show you reality.  Let’s take a look at a great city that at one time was the “model city” for “industrial” America, Detroit.

It literally lays in ruins.  It looks vacant similar to Chernobyl after a nuclear meltdown.  Will all cities be in this position?  No.  Is there a little of Detroit coming to every city?  Yes.  We can no longer stand idle and watch as things decay.  It is time to step up and unite.  Tackle the tough problems we face in educating our youth and training a displaced workforce.  It is time to make creativity and innovation core to our culture and walk through to the other side prosperous and and top.   As you watch these samples of urban decay ask yourself what you can do to change your neighborhood, city and state.  How can you help be part of the solution?

Sunday Book Review: The Great Reset by Richard Florida

The Great Reset: How New Ways of Living and Working Drive Post-Crash Prosperity The Great Reset: How New Ways of Living and Working Drive Post-Crash Prosperity by Richard Florida

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Richard Florida returns to form in this book. He is spot on in his assessments of our current crisis and what it means to future generations. While I am conflicted about the changes that are already occurring it is impossible to ignore them any longer. This is a must read to anyone caring about economics, government and/or education.

View all my reviews >>

Note: Trying something new other than the thumbs up/down reviews because Good Reads makes it so simple now.

Do We Want It Badly Enough?

Richard Florida a leading economist talks answers the question “Will Phoenix rise from the ashes?“.

I am a firm believer that in fact we do need to build on our assets.  I say this every chance I get.  I often wonder if anyone is listening.

He lists some of our assets as follows:

  • We are big. [My assertion is that we need to focus on getting those here skilled]
  • Reasonable Universities. [My assertion is we need to add smaller private colleges to the mix see item above]
  • Technology to build on. [My assertion is we need to invest heavily in seed funding technology]
  • Has to want it. [ I can rant on this forever]

The last point is the one that imperative.  Do we want it badly enough?  If we do, we need to mobilize, unite and most of all raise the bar.  Mediocrity can no longer be accepted and a push for excellence needs to begin.  It’s time this city grew up and got real.  We need to look long and hard in that mirror and decide what we want to do to set ourselves up for a prosperous future.  It’s time to roll up our sleeves and get to work.

The New Economy: A Guide For Arizona

Getting ready for the 96th Arizona Town Hall, I am reading their report Building Arizona’s Future: Jobs, Innovation & Competitiveness.  It references a 1999 paper from the Morrison Institute The New Economy: A Guide for Arizona.  It lists eight principles that underpin the new economy…

  1. Technology is a given
  2. Globalization is here to stay
  3. Knowledge builds wealth
  4. People are the most important raw material
  5. There is no such thing as a smooth ride
  6. Competition is relentless
  7. Alliances are the way to get things done
  8. Place still matters

Those  items in bold are the very thing that Gangplank espouses and I will be reminding the Town Hall the importance of them.  Most importantly, I will remind them that good and talented people are the key.

Five foundations found to be critical based off this study were

  1. Connecting (telecommunications infrastructure)
  2. E-Government (getting government on-line for faster/better service)
  3. E-Learning (distance learning and technology in classrooms)
  4. Creative Communities (amenity-rich communities with strong quality of place)
  5. Knowledge leaders, entrepreneurs and capital (higher education, R&D, tech transfer, incubation and VC)

Again those items highlighted are the essence of Gangplank.  We are proud that the City of Chandler is standing as a strong supporter in providing ALL of these things and why we think they will be the CORE of the Sun Corridor.

Please leave comments to tell me I’m wrong, stupid and idiotic.  I am looking for motivation.

Sunday Review: Out of Our Minds: Learning to be Creative by Ken Robinson

I have decided to do a dead simple book review every Sunday. Some of this is to just share what I’m reading. Rather than go with some complex rating system a book will either be a thumbs up or a thumbs down. Thumbs up means I highly recommend reading the book. A thumbs down means read something else unless you have free time on your hands. I will then do a one or two sentence at most comment on the book.
thumbs-upOut of Our Minds: Learning to be Creative
Take Away: Inspired by the Sir Ken Robinson’s TED talk, I picked this up for reading.  It has great content but Robinson is a much weaker writer than he is orator.

Sunday Review: Who’s Your City?: How the Creative Economy Is Making Where to Live the Most Important Decision of Your Life by Richard Florida

Thumbs up means I highly recommend reading the book. A thumbs down means read something else unless you have free time on your hands.

thumbs-downWho's Your City?: How the Creative Economy Is Making Where to Live the Most Important Decision of Your Life

Take Away: Book felt forced.  It would have been just as good being only half as long.  If economic development or creative class is interesting to you then it’s a thumbs up. 🙂

Creative Economy AZ (My Take)

Based on the Gangplank Futurespective, one thing I promised myself to investigate was Creative Economy AZ.  This is an initiative to raise 1/10th of cent sales tax for the next 20 years to help fund the arts.  I spent a fair amount of time researching what they had online, but felt it was best to meet with those working hard on it before passing judgement.

A few weeks ago I met with Amy Heisler from Metro Phoenix Partnership for Arts and Culture and Sophie O’Keefe-Zelman from First Strategic to talk about the Creative Economy AZ Initiative.  Amy is extremely passionate about arts and culture in Arizona and it shows.   I didn’t learn too much new about the initiative as they do a great job outlining what they are about on their website, from the problem to the solution and on taking action.

I agree with the stated problem.  However, I don’t agree with the solution.  We are in one of the worst economic fiasco’s of this century, both federally and as a state.  With a state budget deficit of several billion and climbing I see little to no chance for this initiative to pass.  Beyond that, I think that it actually puts creatives in a bad light.  It makes creatives look like in the toughest time, that they are the first in line to look for a hand out.

Maybe, I am old fashioned, but this just doesn’t seem right.  I wish that the millions being put into PR, legal fees and lobbying for this initiative were instead being put into efforts to unite the creative class in metro Phoenix.  We are already seeing pockets of people working together to affect radical change in their area of influence.  Imagine if we were to put concentrated effort into getting people to support the arts that are already here and the movement that is already happening?

My Take: Our arts are severely underfunded, but raising taxes to support them in this economic climate is not the right approach.

That said, there is nearly always more than one path to reach an intended destination.