Friday, December 16, 2011

“A businessman goes to Washington Street” Highlights from Eggs & Issues Breakfast with Treasurer Doug Ducey

The Arizona Chamber of Commerce & Industry welcomed special guest and featured speaker Treasurer Doug Ducey on December 8th at the Eggs & Issues Breakfast at the downtown Phoenix Sheraton Hotel. Nearly 100 individuals attended the breakfast sponsored by Alliance Bank to hear from Arizona’s Treasurer who was elected to his first term on November 2, 2010.

The former CEO and President of Cold Stone Creamery brings a new energy and a results-driven approach to the office and the state government. Treasurer Ducey is integrating real world financial practices into the state’s Treasury operations and in less than a year, yielding significant positive results. Under Treasurer Ducey’s fiscal leadership, Arizona ended November 2011 with a positive cash balance at an average of $857 million – up 51% from the same time last year. Despite this encouraging positive trend line, the Treasurer emphasized that Arizona is not experiencing a budget surplus and it will not until its debt is under control and a savings account is built.

Treasurer Ducey also discussed his goals to bring more collaboration between state agencies and departments and to emulate Arizona after other states that have balanced budgets and created savings accounts in equally challenging financial environments. The Treasurer is prepared to tighten Arizona’s budget further, reminding those in attendance that a state’s inability to print dollars compels it to control spending and make better, more sound financial decisions.

Read more about the state of the Treasury in the Treasury’s Quarterly Update newsletter, Inside the Vault here.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Arizona stands to gain by embracing international trade

Written by Katie Whitchurch, Director of Government Relations

Over the course of the last month, Arizona has been home to a number of exciting events related to international diplomacy and trade:

On Thursday, November 10th, the Arizona Council for International Visitors held the first annual “Celebration of Citizen Diplomacy” at the Musical Instrument Museum in northeast Phoenix. Featuring speakers from the National Council for International Visitors, International Visitors Leadership Program with the US Department of State  and Congressman Ben Quayle for the keynote address, this event was designed to recognize the important contribution that regular citizens can play in international diplomacy.

On Wednesday, November 16th, I saddled up the pony and took a road trip down to Nogales, Sonora with the US Commercial Service and 50 other attendees for a Maquilla Expo and short tour of the city. A majority of American businesses attending were small to medium sized manufacturers looking to expand operations into the Mexican market and take advantage of Sonora’s continued growth. They were not disappointed. The Expo was brimming with manufacturers of all shapes, sizes and industries. Technical universities, pest control, sign production, corrugated boxes, supply companies, machine shops; these were just a few of the Mexican and foreign businesses already operating within Nogales. They were looking for suppliers, purchasers, partners – the opportunities were expansive.

Finally, on November 17th, the Arizona Chamber was a community partner at the timely “Building Strategic Partnerships with Korea: Korea’s Joint Local Government Investment Conference.” Our office was a supporter of the recently signed Free Trade Agreement and this conference served as the first step towards further expansion of Korea / Arizona relationships under the newly opened markets. Attendees at the event were given a detailed look at six of Korea’s markets and the various benefits they have to offer for foreign investors. In addition, President & CEO, Glenn Hamer, addressed attendees during lunch and praised the efforts of the Arizona Commerce Authority and Governor Jan Brewer for their work to promote Arizona as an international player. He thanked Yeon-sung Shin, the Consul General for Korea in Los Angeles for his attendance and recognition of Arizona’s importance to the Korean market.

All three of these events are indicative of Arizona’s continued growth in the realm of international trade and it could not come at a better time.

For the past ten years, Arizona has lagged behind the nation in embracing foreign trade. In fact, a recent article highlighted the disturbing fact that whilst the American average hovered near 64 percent, “…Arizona grew fourth-slowest of all states in international trade, at a sluggish 9.1 percent.” Northern Mexico continues to grow into a hub for manufacturing, especially in the areas of defense and aerospace and automotives, while Korea maintains high demand for key Arizona industries. Indeed, last year over 530 Arizona jobs were contingent upon exports to Korea, a number expected to grow by close to 100 percent with the signing of the FTA. In Mexico that number is even higher: with $5.05 billion worth of goods exported from Arizona to our southern neighbor last year and 235,700 jobs reliant upon trade.

It is time for Arizona to embrace its role as an economically competitive and business friendly state and seize upon the innumerable opportunities for growth.

These events have been a good start. They have highlighted the role of citizens in the spread of American ideals and culture. They have embraced our largest trading partner and neighbor, allowing manufacturers recovering from the recession an opportunity to expand their business. They have illuminated a new opportunity for growth and investment by opening the door to personal relationships with an economy recently rid of uncompetitive tariffs. It will be some time before we reach our full potential on the global stage but events like these place us on the right track.


Interested in getting more involved in international trade? Looking for increased networking opportunities? I encourage you to check out the following websites and events:

Arizona Commerce Authority. More information available here.
Arizona Council for International Visitors. More information available here.
Arizona International Growth Group. More information available here.

Friday, October 14, 2011

A Summary: US Chamber 2011 Regional Government Affairs Conference

From Director of Government Relations, Katie Whitchurch: Last week I was fortunate to attend the US Chamber Regional Government Affairs Conference in Chicago. It was a fantastic conference filled with knowledgeable speakers and the latest information on a broad range of topics. Some of those included:

Deficit Reduction and the Super Committee – The top story on everyone’s mind at the conference was the status of the deficit and the work of the so-called Super Committee. The US Chamber, in a letter dated September 29th and co-signed by over 115 chambers and industry groups, asked that the Super Committee use this as a chance to achieve real reform to entitlement programs and the US tax code. It is time for America to be competitive again and whereas “…75 countries have cut their corporate tax rates to make themselves more tax-competitive and increase economic growth,” American businesses continue to operate under one of the world’s highest tax levels. In addition, pressure continues to be applied to the entitlement programs in our country and now is the time to enact real reform and ensure that future generations of Americans can rely on a stable and sustainable system.

Environment – If the various environmental segments throughout the three days had been called “How the EPA has gone too far and why it’s ruining American prosperity,” it would have been just as appropriate. Speakers from the Institute for 21st Century Energy and Project No Project painted an image of the EPA as an organization so focused on issuing regulations and rules that it has forgotten about industry and the country’s very real need for energy. For instance, in the next 20+ years, our energy demand will increase by 53% but rather than rising up to meet the demand, there are currently over 350 new energy projects in the United States, stalled “…due to significant impediments, such as regulatory barriers, including inefficient review processes and the attendant lawsuits and threats of legal action.” This is simply not acceptable. The resources are there, we don’t have to worry about that, but it is high-time for America to rise up and establish itself as a world-leader in energy production and development. Our security, way of life, and continued production depend upon it.

Labor –While here in Arizona we are fighting to preserve the employee protections put in place last session in the form of SB1365, in Washington, DC employee rights are under constant attack.  From shortening the time between union petition and election to limiting a company’s ability to seek legal advice during the unionization process, the NLRB is hard at work taking away employers’ rights and free speech. Think those “bad” corporations are the only ones being affected? Think again. According to 355 NLRB No. 203 from September 2010, union organizers have the right to harass, annoy or disturb “…the employees who are being solicited.” More succinctly, forget those harassment policies! When you combine this rule with the more recent ruling against Boeing and it’s right to move locations within the country,  these decisions set a dangerous standard for regulatory overreach and limited freedoms in the workforce.

Trade – For the first time in a very long time, the US Chamber had something to be happy about with regards to international trade. While at the conference, it became public knowledge that the three pending free trade agreements with Colombia, Panama and South Korea would be taken up by Congress quickly and two nights ago, they received bi-partisan passage out of the House and Senate. As you already know, the Arizona Chamber has been a vocal advocate of free trade, urging our Congressional delegation to support these bills and grow the Arizona economy. We join with the US Chamber in celebrating this achievement for international trade and the opportunities that it will now open to American businesses looking to expand into new markets.

What does this mean for you? It means that without the diligence of the US Chamber and like-minded organizations, the US could be in much worse shape. We know what the issues are and we know what needs to be done to get American back on the right track. Where we need your help is getting the word out there! Stay informed of what the US and Arizona Chambers are doing, contact your elected officials, spread the word to your families and friends, be engaged. Together, we can continue America’s tradition of freedom, security and innovation. 

Friday, October 7, 2011

Ever-changing labor law subject of Chamber seminar

Former United States Air Force F-16 instructor pilot and labor law attorney Steve Wheeless of Steptoe and Johnson LLP joined us at the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry today to discuss recent regulatory and rule changes at the NLRB and DOL. 

A wide range of professionals attended the discussion, including attorneys, government affairs and human resource professionals, as well as representatives from non-profit organizations and hospitals. 

A few highlights of the discussion:

The NLRB has adopted a new approach in defining what constitutes an appropriate bargaining unit in health care facilities that has now extended to include all employers. Under this new standard, an employer is required to prove that employees excluded from a proposed unit “share an overwhelming community of interest” with the employees in the proposed unit in order to prevent micro-fracturing within an organization. This new standard makes an organization very susceptible to unionization, and it is critical for employers to not only identify those groups of employees vulnerable to unions, but to also educate themselves and all employees about this change so that they are prepared to respond to a union solicitation.

The second major change from the NLRB and DOL making it easier for unions to unionize an organization is expediting the representation election process. As the name suggests, the change will significantly condense the time in which employers can respond to a union—  from 21 days to 7 days— and also condense the time for employers to inform their employees about the election. This is another change in which it is critical for employers to be knowledgeable of the representation election timeline should they receive a petition and decide to contest an election.

Steve’s message to the audience was clear: labor law is constantly changing – stay informed. Prepare yourself and your organization for a union solicitation, even if you think it impossible.

Many thanks to Steve for his informative and engaging discussion.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Hiring Our Heroes

Last Thursday, we were very lucky to serve as one of the community partners for Hiring Our Heroes Phoenix. Staff on the ground reported that final numbers appeared to be roughly 800 - 1,000 job seekers – a great turnout!

We are deeply appreciative to the US Chamber of Commerce, Department of Labor Veterans Employment and Training (DOL VETS), the local chambers, the Arizona Office for Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve (ESGR), the Employer Partnership of the Armed Forces (EPAF), and the Arizona Department of Economic Security for all they did to help ensure a successful event! In addition, we wish to thank Congressman Paul Gosar, Congressman Trent Franks, Congressman David Schweikert and Senate President Russell Pearce for their opening remarks.

Of course, none of this would have been possible without the 120+ employers that chose to attend. Thank you for your support of America’s heroes!

Friday, September 23, 2011

Dispatch from China: West meets west at Sichuan University

Arizona State University enjoys a special relationship with Sichuan University, a major university in what is considered western China. In fact, ASU President Michael Crow and his team have established deep and enduring relationships all across China, which I believe will pay dividends for generations to come.

Our delegation participated in a roundtable discussion with about 20 students from the university.  A highlight of this meeting was former Congressman Matt Salmon using his fluent Mandarin to discuss issues with the students. 

The students were all very bright, gracious and well informed about the world.  Most expressed an interest in visiting or working in the United States.

The Arizona delegation all left with a good feeling following our discussion with China’s Gen Y.

Dispatch from China: New sneakers

You can eat off of the pavement in certain sections of Shanghai. I feel as if the part of the city where we are staying is almost too new. The best analogy I can think of are new white tennis sneakers - almost too bright and only look right when they get a few marks.

The city of Shanghai has about 23 million people, which is more than twice the size of the largest city in the United States, New York City.

Cranes are everywhere and it reminds me a bit of Arizona circa 2006, when you could feel the growth.

Waking up today on a beautiful, sunny Shanghai morning was simply exhilarating.  The skyline is remarkable and can compete with any city I have ever seen.

Dispatch from China: Taicang Speed

We just finished a visit to Hareon Solar ( a Chinese solar company.  

Beginning at the end of 2010, ground was broken on a joint venture with Schott Solar in Taicang, a city of about one million, 40 or so kilometers from Shanghai. Taicang is a small town by Chinese standards, with about 800,000 people living or working in it.

Six months after breaking ground the facility was shipping product! 

The locals call this "Taicang speed." Permitting alone in the U.S. can take longer than six months.