Last Thursday, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce hosted the #LetsGrow event at Uber’s Center of Excellence along with the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry. The event featured a panel discussion moderated by Arizona Chamber President and CEO Glenn Hamer, with Suzanne Clark (U.S. Chamber senior executive vice president), and Kirk Adams (governor’s chief of staff).
Besides being the title of the event, Hamer and the panel extensively discussed growth, taking Arizona as an example of fast-moving economic growth for the rest of the nation. As Hamer said, “We need to figure out a way to unite behind a growth agenda.”
Clark discussed the U.S. Chamber’s initial role in stimulating this growth in America as well. She said the U.S. Chamber started as a federation, hoping to be a “national voice for business.” Now, she says, with the government being so interested in revitalizing the economy, we need “to find out what is working so well in Arizona,” and apply that model to the rest of the country.
Looking back, Arizona has created nearly 100,000 jobs in two years, erased a billion-dollar deficit, and invested in education—all without raising taxes. Part of the reason, Clark said, is the remarkable business leaders we have here in Arizona. Kirk Adams continued on this train of thought, saying, “We always appreciate the opportunity to talk about Arizona’s economy.”
But why is Arizona doing as well as it is?
Adams said that Arizona’s “competitive to low taxation environment,” coupled with lighter regulation than other states in the country have seen, is a large part of the reason. Along with this, Arizona’s investment in education and embrace of innovation enhance both its workforce and its economic growth.
Adams continued that embracing innovation is a critical part of the formula for success in Arizona, removing “old laws in favor of new jobs.” This very formula is something we need to apply to the rest of the country if we want to stimulate growth and foster business throughout the nation.
Clark started the discussion by saying that we need to listen to and learn from agents of good business practices; and Arizona is one of those agents of change. The governor in particular has been instrumental in cutting red tape to allow up-and-coming businesses to thrive. Adams asserts, “a poor regulatory environment is another form of taxation.” Eliminating these cost burdens, as he calls them, for emerging entrepreneurs and businesses can be very helpful to stimulate growth.
Talk of red tape led to a discussion of regulatory reform. To roll back the regulatory onslaught, Clark said that apart from presidential executive orders, permanent change is key. How can we make sure that regulatory reform sticks as presidents come and go? Permanent reform is significant so that “businesses have some consistency and can make some plans.”
Stemming from regulatory reform was a discussion of the Silicon Valley. How is Arizona such a “hotbed for companies…looking to expand,” and how does this compare to California’s business environment?
Adams said that Arizona’s embrace of startups and emerging companies “leads to this narrative that Arizona is an up-and-coming place. It’s the place to be.” Opposing this, he said, “companies cannot scale in California; the regulatory environment is just too burdensome.”
Another catalyst of Arizona’s growth lies in the importance it places on trade. In a global economy where exports are so important, Clark discussed the idea that NAFTA, could benefit from an update and be modernized in the face of technology and intellectual property issues. At the same time, NAFTA is duly responsible for creating jobs for 14 million Americans.
How can we navigate this struggle? Clark is optimistic, saying that we live in a country that, thankfully, wants to encourage business as Arizona does, so navigating this conflict puts us on a path towards reform and growth.
As Hamer opened the panel to any issues that are worth considering, the discussion quickly headed towards education. Clark pointed out the importance of the congressional calendar—as the result of a slow-moving body, congressional lags in considering these issues may pose a problem in itself. Adams, taking up the issue of education, stressed the phrase “opportunity for all.” Though “Arizona is home to some of the best schools in country,” low-income environments unfortunately challenge educational attainment. To move towards this goal of opportunity for all, Adams says we need to target low-income areas and schools. He continues, “the largest portion of the education budget proposal this year is to reward high-performing schools with more money.” We need to incentivize our education system in such a way that money goes to schools with greater academic achievement, particularly to high-performing, low-income schools. Adams concludes, “Outcomes should matter at least as much as how much you’re spending…[and we need to] align incentives to the outcomes we seek.”
Clark explored the issue of schools producing talent that businesses don’t actually need. How do we deal with the talent pipeline in such a way that jobs are not affected negatively? And how do we tackle this job displacement in our efforts to settle our economic frustrations? These closing comments give us something to think about in terms of how we will continue taking both Arizona and the nation itself on a path to fast-moving, positive economic growth.
This piece was written by Shreya Venkatesh, intern at the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry in 2017.