Civic Duty: Respond to the Census

You should have received your 2010 US Census in the mail recently.  I have seen people make fun of the postal mail telling you to be looking for it and the additional mail reminding you to fill out it and return it and even the billboards telling you about it.  The truth is that in Arizona only 66% of people have actually responded.  That’s a D on our report card.  We are currently 38th worst at responding.

Please do your civic duty and respond to the census.  It’s not too late.  You can do it online. That transit system you want.  The better schools that we complain about not having.  Virtually anything that has federal funding involved benefits us to have every person in this state counted.  If you haven’t submitted your census.  Get off your ass and do it.  Then please post something on facebook asking people to respond.  Then post to twitter asking people to respond.  Then ask at least 10 people in person if they have submitted their census.  Soon they will start spending tax dollars for people to go door to door for anyone not yet responding.

Arizona Economic Development Can’t Seem To Get It Right

It looks like Arizona Legislature is trying to get business friendly.  I applaud that they are trying to do something.  I just think they don’t get it.  Why is this state hell bent on simply attracting a multi-billion dollar manufacturing/production facility of a multi-national corporation?  Don’t get me wrong we should be willing to do this.  However, this should not be our ONLY strategy as it is not fruitful long term.

The best way to build an economic base is to support the local companies that already choose to call this their home.  As they rise on the success scale they will give back far more to the community than a production plant of a foreign company that simply employs people here.  Most importantly the executives of a company take the lion share of the income generated.  Having those executives native and supportive of Arizona means that they will invest back in spades.  Simply look at the PayPal mafia model for how this works.

So while House Bill 2250 seems great to attract companies doing $150 million in construction and adding 150 jobs by cutting their property taxes from 20% to 1% for 10 years, it doesn’t help build the real future.  It really only helps deals that are already under way.  Instead let’s get serious.  Let’s cut property tax for ALL owner occupied arizona businesses  from 20% to say 10 – 15%. (Offset this by raising Residential Property taxes which are FAR TOO LOW)

If you must keep it to only those reinvesting dollars in a property.  Lets make it reasonable.  $250,000 (instead of $150,000,000) and employs at least 10 people.  Don’t cut it down to 1% instead cut it to say 10 – 15%.  If you want to be serious about the economy you have to be serious about small business.  End of story.

11 Months of Phoenix Metro Rail Ridership Data?

I saw RailLife post Metro Rail ridership numbers from Jan 2009 through Nov 2009.  I was curious what these numbers looked like graphed out, so I quickly plotted the weekday, saturday and sunday/holiday numbers.

Metro Ridership by Month

I then wondered what effect temperature may have had on ridership based on extreme heat here in Arizona.  Granted I was only able to use average monthly temperature and monthly ridership numbers instead of being able to plot ridership everyday by temperature.  I would like someone with that data to plot it though or post the daily ridership numbers so someone else can plot it.

Metro Ridership by Temperature

Lastly I wanted to see what effect gasoline prices had on ridership.  I was only able to use average gas prices with month totals instead of average gas price by day and ridership by day.

Metro Ridership by Gas Price

All in all this data is probably useless for several reasons.  Gas prices jump dramatically during the summer almost directly at the same time temperatures rise here in Arizona.  Rising gas prices and temperatures happen at the same time students are out of school and snow birds are gone.  Would love to hear various theories and see more data.

Regional Ruby Conference in Phoenix, Arizona

There was a call for conference planning for a Regional Ruby Conference on the Ruby AZ meeting list recently.   It was at the request of fellow local Ruby company DevFu that I decided to attend.  I showed up for the planning meeting and was impressed by the turnout. I think most of the regular rubyists were in attendance and all of the companies seemed represented.

I was turned off that it was at a coffee shop.  When there ended up being no room to sit, I admit I felt that I had wasted my time showing up.  Several people mentioned that using something like Gangplank was out of the question because then others wouldn’t attend in protest. I was disappointed that the maturity level was so bad in the community that I reconciled that this thing had no chance.  Out of frustration I even over reacted by calling the selection of the location as a cluster fuck.

The good news is that it ended up being a really good discussion. I think that if nothing else that perhaps the act of planning a regional conference will be the thing that finally gels the local ruby community.  I really felt by the end of the meeting that everyone was working and discussing things that will move this community forward. It left me with hope that perhaps the community is not too fractured or damaged to be taken seriously. Marc and Curtis thanks for taking the time to explore getting this off the ground. I genuinely look forward to helping out.

Looks like we are planning for something in Sept/Oct of 2010 as the date.  There are work groups actively working on venue, speakers, sponsorship, etc.. I started the day with a bad attitude about things and left pretty excited to help make this event happen.

Importing Manufacturing.. Boon or Bust?

The largest Chinese manufacturer of solar panels, Suntech Power, has announced that it is opening a manufacturing plant here in Metro Phoenix.  This is fabulous news.  I think.  It is hard to tell what it really means.  What we know is that they are looking to open a plant in the area that will be somewhere around 80,000 to 100,000 square feet.  They will employ about 75 people right away and perhaps double that at the end of next year.  They plan to invest about $10 million.  Some have sighted this as little more than a brand exercise to alleviate concerns that green jobs will all be outsourced over seas.  Regardless of what it is the announcement saw Suntech Power’s value increase 13% or $2.7 billion.  You can see why this move makes sense for them.

This is very similar to the announcements of Google coming to Phoenix in 2005.  Everyone is trying to take credit for landing this whopper of a fish.  Arizona State University says that it’s awesome research prowess landing the deal.  The Greater Phoenix Economic Council is claiming that they were the ones that got this deal done.  Then there are the politicians that cite their aggressive tax credit deals are what made this announcement possible.

The truth is all of them are probably responsible.  The question is could they be doing things that are more productive for our economy?  As we saw, Google didn’t stick around.  They cited lack of quality engineering talent.  Maybe if ASU was less concerned with being an economic development engine and land developer and instead spent their energy on a top notch engineering school.  We lost a lot more than 75 jobs in the last 12 months.  If only, GPEC would have been more focused on strategies to diversify our economy in the last decade instead of traveling the world looking to recruit it in.  Politicians are quick to put out tax credits for large corporations to move operational arms here, but where are the tax credits for local job creation coming from entrepreneurs.  Short of the angel tax credit, there isnt much.

Suntech welcome to Arizona.  We are glad to have you.  We hope to help you succeed.  We hope to see you in the Southeast Valley.

We Take Open Space for Granted

One of the best things about living in metro Phoenix is that we can be in the center of a seemingly never ending city, but still be surrounded by the beauty of the desert at every turn.  There is a plethora of open space and people that care about preserving it.  One of the hidden gems that the Maricopa County Parks & Recreation department has been fighting to implement despite continued reduction in funding is the Maricopa Trail.  The trail runs throughout Maricopa County and connects nine of the counties parks.  The pathway will be over 240 miles and larger than Loops 101, 202 and 303 combined.  How about that for perspective?

U of A in Downtown Phoenix.. Does This Smell Funny?

There is a lot of talk about U of A building a new cancer center in downtown Phoenix.  There is no denying that this would help fulfill long ago given promises made by the Phoenix Biomedical Campus.  I am not sure where I stand on this.  I just know something is rotten in the state of Denmark.  U of A pushing so hard to be in Phoenix and Mayor Gordon seemingly so willing to help them find money to borrow.

Then all the talk of Maricopa Integrated Healthcare System (MIHS) partnering with U of A to create a medical center in downtown.  I want to be really optimistic because the thought of increased biotechnology sectors and increased health care are big wins.  However, I am reminded of the phrase of “if it sounds too good to be true it probably is”.  So help me out.  Tell me what I’m missing here or am I just being unduly paranoid?

Helping Find the Money To Make It

I read the Phoenix Business Journal every week as part of keeping up with business here in Metro Phoenix. I was floored when I read “Finding the money to make it“.  What was incredible to me were the connections back to Gangplank. Eleanor’s Garden is friends with StealthMode Partners who referred Eleanor’s Garden to Integrum.  Integrum brought Eleanor’s first e-commerce site online. Funding Universe did their last Crowd Pitch at Gangplank last month and is getting ready to do another Crowd Pitch at Gangplank this Friday. Funding Universe will be opening an office at Gangplank this month. It is absolutely awesome to see the community rising up in midst of a horrid economy to continue to see success! Entrepreneurship is alive and well in Chandler!

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.

Slashing K12 Budget, Getting Real is a Bitch

Many people asked me what I thought about State Legistlator approving a nearly $140 million cut in soft capital budget for K-12 education.  I never like to see education getting it’s budget cut.  However, it’s time to get real.  Getting real is a bitch.  We are $2 billion in the hole this year and another $3 billion in the hole next year.  We don’t have a line of credit internally to borrow from anymore.  At this point we are looking to private banks for funding.  The state of Arizona is in severe economic crisis and everyone is going to have to dig in and take it in the shorts.  I think the current cuts to education have been kind.  They could have been much, much worse and I suspect they will be in the future.

I call this opportunity.  You see in every circumstance of hardship, we have the opportunity for the human spirit to shine through, creativity to spark and innovation to spur change in ways we could never imagine when we are fat and happy.  Am I  scared for our educational system?  Hell yes. So while, being pinned back in the corner like an angry dog with no options out but to fight is not where we want to be; I know that Arizonian’s have a hell of a lot of fight in them.  I am excited to see them fight off this downturn and emerge on the other side as the leader of the pack.  Laughing at other states still stuck in the dark ages of education because they didn’t have to scrap just to stay alive.  I’ll put my money on the angry, hungry and desperate in any fight.  I say.. Bring it on!

What are your thoughts?