Arizona Town Hall Session I & II

Ran into @szylstra and @kimberlanning tonight at the Arizona Town Hall.  So here is the 10 second overview.  About 150 people are selected to participate in the Town Hall.  They are then broken in to groups by the organizers.  The key is diversity (political views, backgrounds, race, gender, physical location, etc)  Then for two days these groups sequester themselves into panels.  Each group is given the same list of things to discuss.  There is a recorder and chair to get final consensus for each  group.

At the end of everyday the recorders/chairs meet and merge all the recommendations of the groups together.  On the final day a merged document is presented to the entire Town Hall.  A plenary session is then done to reconcile anything the recorders got wrong.  This is then made into a final document.  One of the universities then make an official version that gets passed around the state as recommendation.

I feel that while I have my own strong opinions,  it is important to get as many people heard as possible at an event like this.  So  I will be posting the questions for discussion here in hope that you will respond back to them on your own blog and leave a comment pointing to it or comment directly here.  I will do my best to make sure your voice is heard even if it contradicts my own opinion on the subject.

Session I – Evaluating Arizona’s Current Economy

  1. What general factors have most significantly shaped Arizona’s current economy?  What are the greatest strengths of Arizona’s statewide economy?  How do these strengths differ among the various components of the economy, including rural, urban and tribal communities?
  2. What are the most significant weaknesses of Arizona’s economy?   What actions has Arizona taken to address these weaknesses and change the economy?  What actions have stakeholders in Arizona’s economy taken to grow, change, or sustain the state’s economy and to attract investment, jobs and business activity?
  3. To what extent is Arizona’s economy affected by national and international economic conditions?  What unique assets does Arizona have that may enhance its competitiveness in the global economy?  How does Arizona’s economy compare with other states, and with communities throughout the world, for investments, jobs and business activity?
  4. What specific factors present barriers to the optimal development and functioning of a vibrant and competitive economy for the entire state?  How do these factors vary by region of the state?  What strategies is Arizona currently using, statewide and locally, to retain, grow and attract businesses and jobs?

Session II – Developing a Vibrant, Innovative & Competitive Economy

  1. What guiding principles should shape efforts to grow, change or sustain Arizona’s economic activity?  What efforts and activities influence the future development and operation of Arizona’s economy?  What factors should be considered in connection with such efforts and activities? Consider: global competitiveness; the interaction of various state and local economic systems and how they enhance or compete with each other; diversification and quality of jobs; factors unique to Arizona such as its environment, weather, population demographics, and the large proportion of federal, tribal and state land trusts.
  2. In what ways do stakeholders work together to influence Arizona’s economic development and to grow, change or sustain economic activity within Arizona?  Consider governing bodies (federal, state, tribal, regional, county and local), private industry, nonprofits, chambers of commerce, economic development organizations, universities and private think tanks, workforce development groups, and the general public.  What would optimize the cooperation of these groups?
  3. How do market forces and government interact to affect Arizona’s economy?  How are the fiscal challenges of national, state and local governments affecting the development of Arizona’s economy?
  4. Considering the factors identified in your response to the previous question, what strategies should be implemented to best meet Arizona’s economic goals?  Which of these strategies do not require additional funding and how viable are they?

If they get me back the data on the consolidated answers to these every night I will transcribe and post them here.  I urge you to please participate.  If for no other reason than to start thinking about these issues. 🙂

Arizona’s Economic Competitors

The following five states are seen as competitors to Arizona for economic development. (I listed them in order I personally feel are most competitive to least competitive)

  • Oregon
  • Utah
  • Colorado
  • New Mexico
  • Nevada

I think that Portland, OR and Boulder, CO are two cities that are really attracting the right kind of people for innovation.  I firmly believe we need to play to our strengths and not try to replicate their success.  However, it is worth taking a look at what policy decisions especially at a State level have been made to help those cities foster a talent pool.

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.

Proper Representation in US Congress

Some staggering statistics…

1789 – 1st Congress

Estimated population (2,500,000)

26 – Senators (1 to 96,154)

65 – Represenatives (1 to 38,642)

91 – Total Representatives (1 to 27,473)

2010 – 111th Congress

Estimated population (309,000,000)

100 – Senators (1 to 3,090,000)

435 – Represenatives (1 to 710,345)

535 – Total Representatives (1 to 577,570)

If we were to update the 111th Congress to match in ratio we would need 11,248 congressmen.

I think we can all agree that adding nearly 10,000 people to congress would be detrimental and not helpful, but it doesn’t mean that the problem of being under represented doesn’t exist.  Sure we have email, twitter, facebook and other technologies that help us use our voice, but I think that as a whole that 1 person representing the interest of nearly half a million people is just not right.

We need to be talking about solutions to this problem.  Has the United States become too big?  Is it time for some serious reformation?  Things that make me go.. hmmmm..

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.

Arizona Robbing Peter to Pay Paul (State Park System)

Arizona is in a fiscal melt down.  They need to balance the budget.  The state is going to have to get creative to do so without slashing everything to the bone.  In a move that I just can’t seem to understand, they appear to want to take all the money from the State Park System (which isn’t even funded with general fund monies).  The problem is that it will virtually eliminate the park system.  A system that attracts tourists to the state in tune of $266 Million a year not including sales tax revenues.   This is just bad business.  Cutting a profit center to cover expenses elsewhere.

I admit I am biased here.   One of the reasons I live in Arizona is because of it’s deep history and beautiful wide open spaces.  I enjoy them so much that I purchased an RV so that I could travel the state and admire it’s beauty.  I buy both the State and National Park passes almost every year and get out and enjoy them.  They are one of the best deals on the planet.

So today, I urge you to talk to your representative and tell them to not close the park system, but before doing so please consider buying an annual pass for $50.00 to show your support.  Here are some of the great parks in our system. We have taken the RV to those in bold.  Those that are red have already been closed.

Alamo Lake State Park
Boyce Thompson Arboretum State Park

Buckskin Mountain State Park
Catalina State Park
Cattail Cove State Park
Dead Horse Ranch State Park
Fool Hollow Lake Recreation Area
Fort Verde State Historic Park
Homolovi Ruins State Park
Jerome State Historic Park (Park Closed)
Kartchner Caverns State Park
Lake Havasu State Park
Lost Dutchman State Park
Lyman Lake State Park
McFarland State Historic Park (Park Closed)
Oracle State Park (Park Closed)
Patagonia Lake State Park
Picacho Peak State Park
Red Rock State Park
Riordan Mansion State Historic Park
River Island Unit
Roper Lake State Park
San Rafael State Natural Area
Slide Rock State Park
Sonoita Creek State Natural Area
Tombstone Courthouse State Historic Park
Tonto Natural Bridge State Park
Tubac Presidio State Historic Park
Verde River Greenway State Natural Area
Yuma Quartermaster Depot State Historic Park
Yuma Territorial Prison State Historic Park

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. 🙂

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.

Maybe Teacher Unions Are Part of the Problem

House Bill 2011 was signed on September 4th and went into effect November 24th.  What exactly is bill 2011?

  • Districts can no longer have policies that use seniority or tenure for retention or reduction in force.
  • Districts no longer have to rehire based on employment date after reduction in force rehire.
  • Districts no longer have to equally reduce tenured teacher’s salary.  It can be done individually.
  • Number of days for inadequate teacher to correct is 60 instead of 85 instructional days
  • Teachers can not be paid for doing union business on contracted time.
  • Districts no longer have to let teachers know by April 15th if they will be renewed.
  • Districts can issue contracts anytime they want instead of between March 15th and May 15th

This all sounds like a competitive and fair work environment to me.  It seems odd that so many people (especially teachers) are crying foul.  They even go as far as saying that this makes Arizona “restrictive”.  I guess the state is putting restrictions on the districts, but it seems like they are really just preventing the union from burying the school system in the midst of a state meltdown.  Doing things by seniority instead of competence is always a slippery slope.  Best I can tell this bill isn’t preventing districts from looking at tenure/seniority, but instead is saying that it should be only ONE factor in making decisions not the SOLE factor.

I think we have to think hard about whether we really need teachers with doctorate and master degrees teaching every class in K-12.  It’s not fair to ask a teacher to get a Masters Degree and then not pay them going rate for a Master’s Degree.  We have to start getting creative in how we educate or children before it’s too late.  The current system is broken for EVERYBODY.  I am sure I pissed a lot of educators off saying the above and that is not the intent.