Az biz Rx: Solar, renewable energy for sustainable business environment
Leaders say growth can't be primary economic driver
Gov. Jan Brewer joined business leaders Thursday in calling Arizona to create a climate more attractive to long-term employment, helping the state move away from growth as its primary economic driver.
Her solution: recruit renewable companies.
Lawmakers and chamber of commerce members from around the state gathered to listen to the governor's call for a competitive and sustainable economic environment at Chamber Day, an annual event organized by the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
"I believe the recipe for success is quite simple: create an environment that's friendlier to business, develop focused, statewide business attraction and retention strategy and then recruit, recruit, recruit," Brewer said.
With several solar companies in the process of moving operations here or studying moving here, Brewer said their presence will not only generate jobs but bring Arizona closer to becoming the solar capital of the world.
Mary Ann Miller, president and CEO of the Tempe Chamber of Commerce, said focusing on the solar and renewable energy industry might be just what the state needs to combat its soaring unemployment rate.
"Being able to not rely so much on fossil fuels is good, but the immediate benefit is jobs," said Miller, who also chairs the Local Chambers Committee for the state organization.
The Tempe Chamber has been doing everything it can, such as creating forums and educational workshops, to help businesses ride out the Great Recession, Miller said. But attracting one of the only industries in the country still generating revenue would provide some much needed relief, she said.
One way to achieve this is by creating tax incentives and cutting taxes on businesses, said Don Rinehart, president and CEO of the Glendale Chamber of Commerce.
"It's not any different from what athletic teams do to recruit athletes that they want to participate in their athletic programs," he said. "Whether people like incentives or not, that's how the game's played and that's how you win in the economic development game."
Rinehart stressed taking care of existing businesses but hopes that incentives attract more white-collar jobs because they are usually more long-term and pay more.
Rep. Lucy Mason, R-Prescott, said she's been fighting for tax credits and additional policies to attract renewable energy businesses for the past seven years. She said Arizona has been focused on construction for way too long and even though it will continue to be a growth state, the opportunity for change is at hand.
"I really am optimistic," Mason said. "We're going to have a great state, especially spreading out into these technological areas."