DuVal: Jobs plan includes tech, education, avoiding Daily Show
Arizona is at at an economic crossroads, set between becoming an powerhouse by capitalizing the talent and resources available here, or an backwater that remains the butt of jokes from "The Daily Show."
That was the argument made by Fred DuVal during a presentation Friday along with three members of the Tucson businesses community at Brink Media, 1100 S. Sixth Ave.
Fresh from submitting on Thursday the signatures required to enter the race for governor, DuVal presented "Open for Business." If implemented, the plan would restore all-day kindergarten, increase other education spending, advance research and development in solar and biotechnology, and attempt to limit regulations that currently hamper new businesses, DuVal said.
DuVal was flanked by Brink President Danny Vinik; Dr. Paul August, the director of drug-maker Sanofi; and Larry Hecker, the power-house attorney who has worked with investment and development for Tucson-area businesses.
"It's like the opening line of the 'Tale of Two Cities,'" said DuVal, citing the Charles Dickens' novel. "We are the best of times and the worst of times."
According to DuVal, the state was "crushed by the recession" and while unemployment is decreasing, the jobs that are replacing those lost during the recession pay less. As noted by the campaign, in 2008 the median household income in Arizona was $1,071 below the national average, but by 2012, the state's average household income had fallen to $3,545 below the national average.
At the same time, the state's expenditure on students has become one of the lowest in the nation, DuVal said.
However, Arizona has the right raw ingredients to make an economic comeback. The state's future, he argued, will hinge on the state's ability to make talent the number one priority and since "capital follows talent" in a modern economy, it will be increasingly important for the state to increase education spending, investments in technologies like solar and biotechnology, and build a stronger trade relationship with Mexico.
"We need to build a welcome mat, not a stop sign," he said, alluding to Arizona's controversial SB 1070. Ultimately picked apart by the courts, the 2010 immigration law led to boycotts against the state.
Brink CEO Vinik argued that the law had made it harder for him to do business, since large companies were shy about working with an advertising company based in Arizona.
"It's an insidious feeling," he said.
The state also dodged the onus of another controversial law recently, when Gov. Jan Brewer vetoed SB 1062, which would have allowed business to refuse to serve homosexuals based on religious belief.
"We need a a point person to turn around that perspective," said Sanofi's August. "And, we need to do it rapidly, because that's what we need to sustain business development in the state."
"Arizona needs a governor who understands the intersection between research, entrepreneurship, and public policy," he said. "Simply put, Fred's that guy. He get's it."
"We need to figure out how to get off the Jon Stewart show," said DuVal.
Fostering innovation, Hecker argued, leads to the creation of many more jobs.
Hecker cited the Tucson company Burr-Brown, a semi-conductor manufacturer that grew from two guys in a garage to a huge company ultimately purchased by Texas Instruments for $7.6 billion. "That's the kind of thing we need, we plant the seed and grow lots of jobs."
DuVal is the only Democratic candidate to have filed nominating petitions for the state's governor race, however, at least two Republican candidates Christine Jones, a former execuitive for GoDaddy, and current Arizona Secretary of State Ken Bennett, have also filed. Also seeking to appear on the GOP primary ballot are state Sen. Al Melvin, former Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas, and state Treasurer Doug Ducey.
DuVal prepared for his race by assiduously lining up support; he announced he was running more than a year ago. Last fall, Democratic legislator Chad Campbell announced that he would not run for governor after DuVal's careful groundwork precluded an intra-party contest.