Friday, April 11, 2014

Arizona rocks down to Electric Avenue

The Arizona Chamber, Arizona Manufacturers Council and other Arizona business leaders joined Gov. Brewer this morning as she signed into a law a bill to improve Arizona’s competiveness in manufacturing. SB1413 was sponsored by Sen. Steve Yarbrough and will remove the sales tax that manufacturers pay on their electricity and natural gas usage. Prior to the passage of SB1413, Arizona was one of only 12 states to levy this tax on manufacturers.

Introduced by Gov. Brewer in her State of the State Address back in January, this legislation is the latest move in the governor’s work on the Arizona Comeback. As she said this morning, “I want Arizona to be the number one pro-business state in the nation. We have lowered and simplified taxes, reduced burdensome red tape and kept government out of the way of business success and job creation. Ending this tax removes one more barrier to business expansion and job creation”

Steve Macias, Pivot Manufacturing and AMC

Steve Macias, president and CEO of Pivot Manufacturing and chairman of the Arizona Manufacturers Council was also on hand and remarked that he could, “feel the [tax-free] electricity in the room.” He spoke about the importance of this bill for the “retention and attraction of business,” as it will save manufacturers “$18 million in annual operating costs.”

Also providing remarks was Dawn Grove, vice-chair of the Arizona Manufacturers Council and corporate counsel for Karsten Manufacturing, which manufacturers the Masters-winning Ping golf clubs right here in Arizona. Dawn noted, “Manufacturers in other states have fled the United States for less regulated and less taxed shores, but in Arizona we have leaders like Governor Brewer, who have understood the importance of eliminating obstacles to investment and who have found new ways, like Senate Bill 1413 to encourage the building of products in Arizona for export to the rest of the world.”
Dawn Grove, Karsten Manufacturing and AMC
We are enormously grateful to Gov. Brewer, Sen. Yarbrough and the Arizona Legislature for their support of the manufacturing industry, not only this session but also in years past. The governor has made significant progress over the past several years to ensure that Arizona is an attractive place for manufacturers to conduct business, and we thank her for allowing us to be a partner in the process.
As Gov. Brewer said this morning, “Together, we’ve made our message to manufacturers loud and clear: Arizona is open for business” 

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Mining Day at the Capitol puts Arizona heritage and jobs on display

I had the great pleasure of attending the Arizona Mining Association's "Mining Day at the Capitol" this week. The power and size of the heavy machinery on display was awe inspiring.


Similar to the machinery that runs it, the Arizona mining industry is a powerful giant in the state's economy. Led by President Kelly Norton, the Arizona Mining Association is the state's leading voice for the industry. Arizona is the largest copper-producer in the U.S. and would be considered the sixth highest producing nation if it were a country. Responsible for almost 70 percent of all copper production in America, Arizona understand the importance of this "C."

This industry is responsible for an estimated $4.6 billion fiscal impact on the state's economy, or half of the state's proposed budget. In addition to producing and exporting large amounts of copper, the mining industry is also responsible for providing almost 50,000 jobs, and on average the jobs pay over $100,000 a year, which is double the state's average salary rate.


Whether I am driving in my Prius (64 lbs of copper) or using my cell phone (16 grams), copper is very much a part of our daily lives.  Unlike many other mined metals, copper is an essential that will always be needed and we are lucky to have such an abundant source in our state. Kudos to those of you at the Arizona Mining Association for all of your hard work. You have ensured that Arizona will remain a major player in this industry for years to come.





Monday, April 7, 2014

Girl Scouts CEO Anna Maria Chavez visits Arizona, discusses importance of STEM education

This past Friday I had the privilege of attending breakfast roundtable with Anna Maria Chavez, CEO of Girl Scouts of the USA, where I had the opportunity to learn a few of the ways in which the current 2.3 million members of Girl Scouts are being challenged to assume leadership roles from a young age.

An Arizona native, Anna Maria Chavez is well-respected in Arizona for her contributions to community service and development programs under former Gov. Janet Napolitano. Though she now calls New York home, her work for Girl Scouts of the USA continues to influence the growth of young women leaders in our state.

While some of us might associate Girl Scouts with delicious cookies, the real treat is seeing young girls learn important skills that will prepare them for their educations and eventual careers. With Girl Scouts-Arizona Cactus-Pine Council, Inc based in Phoenix and Girl Scouts of Southern Arizona in Tucson, Arizona is home to over 38,000 Girl Scouts alone. Aside from all the great places in Arizona for girls to earn their badges in outdoor activities, Arizona is a hot spot for girls to earn their badges in education.

What is especially extraordinary about Girl Scouts of the USA is their concentrated effort in STEM subjects (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics). In a time when education policy is abuzz at both the state and federal level, Girl Scouts of the USA is encouraging girls to participate in activities that help them to enhance their learning inside and outside the classroom.

All six Girl Scout levels are required to earn their STEM badges through activities that range from learning how a car’s engine works to understanding the physics behind a rollercoaster. Just think, that’s over 38,000 young women in the state of Arizona who have earned badges in STEM subjects through hands-on learning. As a proud father of Ella, a 9-year-old Girl Scout, I am thankful to see my daughter participate in activities that promote STEM education.



This focus on STEM goes hand-in-hand with another one of Girl Scouts of the USA’s current campaigns, “Ban Bossy,” a campaign spear-headed by the Lean-In Movement  and Facebook COO Cheryl Sandberg. Says Sandberg, "I want every little girl who's told she's bossy, to be told instead she has leadership skills." This quote has inspired leaders such as Anna Maria Chavez to join Sandberg in support of the Lean-In Movement, and further develop the leadership potential of young girls and women by preparing them to become business leaders.

Anna Maria Chavez is the perfect example of why Girl Scouts of the USA is such an empowering organization, especially here in Arizona. She started as a young Girl Scout in Eloy, Arizona and grew up to become an influential leader at both the state and national level. Knowing that Girl Scouts of the USA is a launching pad for this kind of success makes me proud to see my daughter involved in this organization. As the Girl Scout Mission states, “Girl Scouting builds girls of courage, confidence, and character, who make the world a better place.” 

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Progress at the Ports

The U.S. Customs and Border Protection announced on Monday that it will allocate 2,000 additional CBP officers to the United States’ ports of entry. Of the 2,000, 175 will be allocated to Arizona.

The additional officers were included in the federal budget deal reached in January to fund the remainder of fiscal year 2014. The Arizona Chamber encouraged the members of the Arizona delegation to be the proverbial “squeaky wheels” to ensure that Arizona received a share of these new officers, in order to facilitate trade with Mexico that 6 million Arizona jobs rely on.

Kudos to Rep. Salmon and Sen. Flake for leading the charge on this effort. Rep. Salmon put together a coalition of Arizona Representatives that included Rep.s Barber, Franks, Gosar, Grijalva, Kirkpatrick, Sinema and Schweikert to advocate for more CPB officers for Arizona’s ports of entry. Sen. Flake authored a letter with Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) stressing the importance of additional CPB staffing at land ports of entry along the southern U.S. border.

Thanks to their efforts, Arizona will receive 175 of the 2,000 new CBP officers, 120 of whom will head to Nogales. This is an important first step in capitalizing on Arizona’s full trade and tourism potential.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

It’s time.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation this morning released a video titled, “It’s Time for the Common Core State Standards.” The video demonstrates broad support for the Standards spanning political parties, states, districts and generations. From former Governors and state Superintendents to teachers, military families and business leaders, it’s clear that those with an interest in ensuring our children are ready for the jobs of tomorrow think that these Standards, known in Arizona as the Arizona College and Career Ready Standards, are an important step forward. Adopted in Arizona in 2010, these new standards are internationally benchmarked to college and career readiness, and received even higher ratings from the Thomas B. Fordham Institute than Arizona’s 1999 standards.

As Governor Brewer notes in the clip, “Everyone knows that global competition for jobs has changed. Our schools must keep pace.” Jeb Bush, the former Governor of Florida- a state Arizona and others look to as inspiration for successful education reform- states, “if we aspire to greatness as a nation, we have to have standards that are benchmarked to the best in the world.”

Also featured in the video are University of Arizona mathematics Professor Dr. William McCallum and former Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction, Lisa Graham Keegan.  (I also make a brief appearance.)

Dr. McCallum was the lead author of the Common Core math standards, and notes that these Standards are, “the best chance that we have to improve mathematics in this country that has come along in my lifetime.” Former Michigan Governor and President of the Business Roundtable John Engler agrees, calling these standards “the single most effective education advance we have seen in a generation.”

Ms. Keegan says, “This is the way our students reach their potential. And for American children, it’s how our country remains the strongest country in the world and the greatest country ever imagined.”

Please take a few minutes to watch the video here. These standards aren’t a silver bullet, we must continue to work to improve choice, accountability and quality in our K-12 system, but the Arizona College and Career Ready Standards are an important part this improvement. It’s time to ensure Arizona’s children have Standards that will ensure they are ready for college and career.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Sen. Flake joins us at the Chamber for a special roundtable

The Arizona Chamber this morning was privileged to host U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake for a roundtable discussion on issues important to the Arizona business community. Sen. Flake has been an avid supporter of the state’s job creators and a leader in addressing some of the most critical issues of the day.

Not the least of which is the current international environment. Sen. Flake recently joined Sen. McCain and a bi-partisan delegation of five other Sen.s on a trip to Ukraine to meet with top political leaders and show support for the Ukrainian people. Last night, the Senate passed a bill to provide $1 billion in aid to Ukraine, a measure Sen. Flake supported. (I felt the need to ask, but Sen. Flake assured me that he has not yet been sanctioned by Russia.) Sen. Flake also touched on the administration’s interim agreement with Iran to halt nuclear exploration.

Today’s discussion focused primarily on immigration reform, water, trade and federal agencies.

Immigration

Both Sen. Flake and Sen. McCain have led the charge on immigration reform, participating in the “Gang of Eight” Sen.s who last year proposed comprehensive immigration reform legislation that ultimately cleared the Senate. The Arizona Chamber has been very vocal about our support for the Senate effort, and immigration reform in general, but the legislation has stalled in the House. House Republican leadership announced a set of principles in January that they wish to see reflected in any immigration legislation their chamber considers. Sen. Flake noted that he supports these principles, was encouraged to see fresh efforts to find common ground in recent weeks and promised to continue to push for comprehensive immigration reform.

Sen. Flake has been working on immigration reform since 2004, when he first introduced a comprehensive reform bill with Congressman Jim Kolbe and Sen. McCain.

Water

As Sen. Flake mentioned, when Sen. Kyl retired from the Senate in 2012, he took with him an enormous amount of institutional knowledge on national and Arizona water issues. Fortunately, Sen. Flake picked up some of Sen. Kyl’s key staff, and continues to work closely with Sen. Kyl to ensure that Arizona has the water supply it needs to support projected growth in the coming years. Sen. Flake noted that Arizona has planned well over the last few decades, and has become a model for other states in this regard. As we look to the future, we will need to look at augmentation or conservation, and Arizona is in good hands with Sen. Flake leading on this issue.

Trade

Sen. Flake gave an update on another important priority of the Arizona Chamber: securing Trade Promotion Authority for the Administration. He noted that nearly every free trade agreement in the last three decades has been negotiated under Trade Promotion Authority, and urged stakeholders to reach out to the Administration to encourage its continued engagement.

We were very encouraged to hear Sen. Flake predict that the Miscellaneous Tariffs Bill will be reauthorized this year. The bill expired on January 1, 2013, and failure to reauthorize would result in decreased competitiveness for Arizona and U.S. manufacturers.


Federal Agencies

There was a lot of praise around the room for Sen. Flake’s leadership to ensure Arizona’s voice was heard on commonsense reforms to the EPA’s Exceptional Events Rule. Last fall he was able to secure an unprecedented Arizona-only listening session with the EPA where a wide range of industries were able to share their concerns with the Exceptional Events Rule with the EPA. Last year the EPA issued interim Exceptional Events Implementation Guidance to help air agencies manage air quality data recorded during exceptional events.

As a result, the EPA just recently proposed approval of the Five Percent Plan for the Maricopa County PM-10 Nonattainment Area. We thank Sen. Flake for submitting comments to the EPA urging them to issue final approval of the plan.

Moving forward, Sen. Flake noted that Congress must return to business as usual in passing a federal budget. When the House and Senate are able to go through their appropriations processes, which require agencies to make the case for their funding, Congress has more oversight and ability to reign in overzealous agency regulation. We applaud Sen. Flake for his continued efforts to reduce regulatory burdens for businesses.

I want to thank Sen. Flake both for his leadership and for taking the time to sit down with us this morning. Arizona is fortunate to have such a sharp, thoughtful, committed leader representing us in DC.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Arizona business community not going to party like it's 1999

Here they go again. For the second time in as many weeks, the state Senate today will consider two pieces of legislation that will dramatically weaken Arizona's ability to give its students a world-class education defined by rigorous standards.

The Senate is set to take up SB 1395 and SB 1396, which would allow local governing boards and charter holders to opt-out or opt-in of our state's higher standards and a corresponding assessment. Schools can already exceed the minimum standard. These bills would let them achieve below the minimum and allow schools to opt in to old academic standards from the 90’s.

If these bills were to become law, it would open the door to opting out of standards that will allow our students a chance to compete for tomorrow's jobs. Instead, the bar for our kids would be lower; much lower.

Don't like today's standards? Then you can party like it's 1999, and revert back to the standards from 15 years ago. You remember 1999: Ricky Martin was Livin’ La Vida Loca, Keanu was in The Matrix, Bill Clinton was in the middle of an impeachment trial and Google turned 1.

These bills harm Arizona's reputation as a state where school choice thrives. If every school district has its own standards, the ability to compare schools across districts goes away. Without uniform, rigorous standards, parents won't be able to make apples to apples comparisons that help them determine where to send their kids.
Today's exercise is another attempt to lower the expectations for our kids and  deny them the high quality education they deserve.

Please take thirty seconds to watch this video that shows the resounding business community support for higher standards.