Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Another Successful Environmental & Sustainability Summit

Last week the Arizona Chamber team packed our bags and headed for the cooler temperatures and greener hills of Prescott. While escaping the valley heat was a benefit, our real purpose was to host the 2013 Environmental and Sustainability Summit (ESS).

We had a packed house at this year's Environmental & Sustainability Summit

Each year ESS brings together the best and brightest from the environmental and sustainability community for two days of cutting edge information and conversations with industry professionals. ESS 2013 was no exception – in fact, this year was one of our best summits yet.

Summit attendees had the opportunity to hear a first-hand update from Director Henry Darwin and his team at the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ). The ADEQ crew caught us up to speed on the department’s goals and plans of action for the future. The department’s adoption of LEAN standards is a fairly new way of business, one that they plan on continuing long into the future. As of late, the adoption of LEAN standards has allowed the department to reduce the length of the permitting process – in some cases reducing approval time from 550 days to 135.

The development of the My ADEQ project is a major effort to streamline the regulatory process. This new project, expected to be finished by next fiscal year, includes the development of an online account system for every member of the regulated community, allowing members to view and pay fees and permit renewals online. In addition, ADEQ is working to intervene quickly when stalled permit applications are identified. As the ADEQ panel put it, it’s not their mission to deny applications. Rather, they’re looking to move them forward as quickly as possible.

Director Henry Darwin moderates the ADEQ panel.

Touching on the complex navigation of federal and state environmental policy was a panel of experts from Polsinelli PC. Moderated by the state Rep. Karen Fann, the panel consisted of Andy Wright, Tracy Hammond and Amanda Reeve. The panel was quick to point out that the last time Congress passed energy legislation was in 2007. Since then, three major issues have arisen, creating a need for a changed energy agenda. The development of natural gas and renewable energy, cybersecurity threats and infrastructure problems are all on the radar as Congress formulates new energy policies. It’s worth nothing that cybersecurity threats, although a fairly new concept, have become an increasingly pressing issue. Unfortunately, the Senate and House can’t seem to agree on the proper action to take, increasing the likelihood that action will only be taken in response to a series of unfortunate events.

For attendees looking to promote sustainable development practices within their company or to add LEAN methods to their already-established programs, the Summit had valuable information to offer. Adam Hawkins of Polsinelli PC stressed the importance of keeping economic matters at the core when attempting to communicate the necessity of a sustainable development program. Keeping in mind that key decisions are often made by people who don’t understand the reasons behind the program, Hawkins urged attendees to communicate in a way that the finance and engineering departments understand. Ben Chandler of Haley & Aldrich, Inc. emphasized the four key steps for implementing LEAN methods:

1. Identify what you’re aiming to achieve
2. Identify what doesn’t support your goal and remove those items
3. Identify what will really help
4. Implement a pilot program, measure your results, and adjust as necessary

Chandler also pointed out that using your employees’ ideas is key, as they’re more likely to implement ideas they’ve personally developed.

Rep. Karen Fann moderates the Environmental Policy panel featuring a team from Polsinelli, PC

In addition, the Summit highlighted the sustainability overhaul of Taliesin West – Frank Lloyd Wright’s lab for organic design – and took a look at successful recycling methods from Raytheon, Intel, and Mayo Clinic. For those of you looking to clean out your office and do something good for the community, the recycling panel recommends making donations to Treasurers 4 Teachers. They’ll accept your company’s discards and turn them into classroom treasures. Your leftovers could be used to encourage creativity and innovation in Arizona classrooms. You can’t beat that!

ESS 2013 was a great event, bringing together some of the industry’s best and brightest for insightful discussions. For those of you who missed the event, head over to the events page on the Arizona Chamber website to view the Summit presentations. We hope to see you next year for another great event!

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Sen. McCain comes to the Chamber, urges business to speak up for immigration reform

Sen. McCain addresses a full board room at Tuesday's roundtable

Sen. John McCain stopped by the offices of the Arizona Chamber earlier this week for one of his occasional roundtables with the business community. As usual, all of us in the room learned something from the senator, who is always generous with his time and insight.

If you’ve ever had the occasion to see the senator at one his town halls, you know that the senator’s energy is infectious. When he joined us Tuesday afternoon, he had just come from a similar roundtable, he had more meetings on tap and to top it off he had just been released from jury duty that morning. But the Energizer bunny of the U.S. Senate was fired up and ready to talk about the top issues of the day.

Immigration was on his mind. Sen. McCain made an impassioned plea to the state’s business community to urge the U.S. House to take up immigration reform when Congress returns to Washington after the August recess. A prominent member of the Gang of Eight who helped advance an immigration package out of the Senate, the senator told our group that he believes the time is now to reach out to House members and let them know that immigration reform must be a priority.

As Sen. McCain pointed out, this issue does not have to be surrounded in controversy or vitriol. He reported on polling figures that show that over 70 percent of Arizonans support a reform package that would require immigrants who aren’t in a legal status to learn English, pay back taxes and go to the back of the line for legalized status.

He’s right. We’ve seen similar figures in our own polling at the Chamber, making clear that Americans and Arizonans are ready for positive action on immigration.

The senator also discussed the economic benefits of immigration reform, citing analyses by the Congressional Budget Office and REMI showing the positive impact on the budget deficit and the country’s employment picture.

Sen. McCain also reminded the audience that before the summer is over we are bound to read of yet more deaths in the desert by migrants seeking to improve their economic prospects. That we would tolerate these deaths by men and women who are seeking to work and provide for their families is not consistent with the ideals of the Land of Opportunity.

The Arizona Chamber has heard Sen. McCain loud and clear. We recently worked with businesses from across the state to write to our U.S. House delegation and urge action on immigration reform. 

As we wrote in our letter, “we need to fix the legal immigration system so it serves America’s interests, delivering the workers and the brainpower we need to sustain a vibrant and competitive economy.”

Sen. McCain meets with Arizona Chamber and Phoenix Chamber members

Sen. McCain meets with the media following Tuesday's roundtable