Political Bites : Business Friendly East Valley

What should be done to make the Southeast Valley more “business friendly?”

It is imperative that we attract, retain and cultivate the talent necessary to start new businesses.  In order to do this, municipalities need to invest in cultural infrastructure and properly fund education.  Additionally, we need to find sources of venture capital that will help new companies grow and mature.

All-America City Celebration

The City of Chandler was awarded the National Civic League All-America City Award, the award recognizes communities whose citizens work together to identify and tackle community-wide challenges and achieve uncommon results.  Chandler was selected because of it’s work to curb underage drinking, use resources wisely and provide medical attention to uninsured children.

Tonight the city will be celebrating at 6:30pm at the Chandler Center for the Arts, 250 North Arizona Avenue.  The event includes entertainment, refreshments, a slide show and a video highlighting the presentation given in Kansas City, MO.  It will honor CARE Center, ICAN and the Chandler Heights Community Facilities.

Creating Vibrant City Environments for a Thriving State Economy

I recently sat on a panel at the League of Arizona Cities and Towns Annual Conference.  The topic was Creating Vibrant City Environments for a Thriving State Economy.  I opened with the following.

The truth is that we are seeing a decline in blue collar jobs.  The gap between the high wage of the creative class and the lower wage of the service class is growing every quarter.  Furthermore, because creatives are not dependent on physical buildings the way the service/manufacturing class is they are starting to become more geographically concentrated.  Flocking towards cities that offer a wide variety of diversity and density of talent.

The only way we can combat this is to increase the number of people working in the creative class.  It is fundamental to understand that every human is born creative.  Until we start utilizing and developing the full creative potential in each of us we can’t truly grow and develop our economy to it’s full capacity.


The future of economic development demands that we invest in people.  We have to step outside our communities and look to develop humanity itself in order to unlock our futures.

There were a list of 25 questions that we took time answering.  I would like to turn those questions into a small series.  Where I will list the question and provide my response in hope that you will build on it and give your opinion.

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!

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.

Political Bites: Cubs Spring Training Subsidy

What do you think of Mesa’s decision to fund the Chicago Cubs’ spring training facilities?

Apparently Mesa failed to do it’s homework.  Lake Forest College studied 30 cities over 30 years and found that 27 experienced no significant impact from new stadiums while three cities experienced a negative economic impact.  Does a company that made an estimated $58 million in PROFITS in 2008 and sold for $845 million in 2009 really need a subsidy?  Maybe Mesa should be investing in local entrepreneurs instead?


Derek

Phoenix Urbanites Cry Sprawl Foul, but Remain Most Guilty

A few times recently I have seen/heard Phoenix Urbanites disparage outside cities in derogatory terms using “sprawl” as their verbal assault of choice.  Oddly the facts, don’t line up with their dogma.

Let’s look at total population, population density (people per sq mile), incorporation date and average household income.

City Population Density Incorporation Household Income
Portland 582k 4,288/sq mi 1845 $70,000
Chandler 274k 4,202/sq mi 1912 $69,278
Tempe 175k 4,067/sq mi 1894 $42,361
Mesa 463k 3,536/sq mi 1878 $42,817
Phoenix 1,567k 2,937/sq mi 1881 $50,140

It’s amazing that Chandler, AZ looks more like Portland, OR than Phoenix, AZ does by the numbers.

I suspect that Phoenix people harping on density and urban infill while casting stones at other communities would know that in fact the City of Phoenix has been the biggest culprit of unabated sprawl over the last 50 years.  Having by far the lowest population density track record.  It likes to claim superiority by being the capital and being here “first” and that these other cities popped up over night and ruined the world with “sprawl”, but in reality it is younger than Mesa and relatively close in age to the others.

I do believe that all these cities have a sprawl problem (which I am against).  I am just setting the record straight that Phoenix is the biggest violator.

I  lived in Phoenix (the city) for 24 years and have lived in the East Valley for the past 10 years.  I worked in downtown Phoenix for 8 years and downtown Tempe for 4 years.  Two of my children were born in downtown Phoenix and one in Chandler.  I love both the city and the metro, but it’s time that we start having real discussion and stop just regurgitating the rhetoric the uninformed feed us or we will be doomed to be in crisis for another decade or more.

Disclaimer: My goal is to position Chandler is the linchpin of the Sun Corridor by 2020.  Rising tides raise all ships and by definition this does not make me “against” Phoenix.

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.