Under a proposal announced April 14 by Gov. Jan Brewer, the Arizona Department of Commerce, an important arrow in the state’s economic-development quiver, would be overhauled and reborn as the Arizona Commerce Authority, a private-sector-led agency focused on business attraction and retention. Key industries on which it would concentrate include the biosciences.
“It’s all about collaboration, public and private,” said Jerry Colangelo, head of USA Basketball, and chair of the council of business executives that crafted a report and recommendations for the governor, in the Arizona Republic. “I believe we have a legitimate shot at making something happen.”
The new Commerce Authority would be led by a director hired from the professional sector who would work for a board of directors made up of 15 business and community leaders from around the state, with the governor as chair. Most of the dozens of programs and commissions the Commerce Department currently oversees would be distributed to other agencies.
Gov. Brewer’s proposal recommends that the Authority focus intently on five of the high-paying industries where Arizona has the potential to become a national or even global leader: solar, science, technology, aerospace and defense. Rural economic development would also remain a priority for the agency.
“This is a comprehensive effort that provides a 21st-Century approach to advance Arizona’s economy,” Gov. Brewer said. “We will be more aggressive in attracting new industry and jobs to this state, and we will be more focused on helping great Arizona companies grow and expand.”
Among the responsibilities of the Authority would be coordinating economic-development efforts of several existing external groups, including Science Foundation Arizona, the state’s public universities, regional economic-development groups, and the state’s several Councils of Governments.
“This is not going to be another one of those grandiose plans that ends up unfunded, unread, collecting dust on someone’s shelf,” Gov. Brewer said in the Arizona Capitol Times. She said that she hopes the overhaul will be achieved during the Arizona Legislature’s current session.
In preparing its recommendations for the governor, the advisory council gathered information from numerous focus groups, including two specifically identifying the needs and priorities of the bioscience sector. The council also studied best practices around the country and abroad.
“All states are shifting to a 21st-century statewide economic-development model, focusing on programs that support the growth of innovation-based clusters and partnering with higher education, technology groups, and R&D institutions to advance their state’s economic agenda,” wrote Sara Dial, a former Commerce director, who guided the council’s work, in a Republic op-ed.
Arizona Speaker of the House Kirk Adams said that he was particularly pleased by the recommendation that the Authority’s director be hired from outside, under a multi-year contract, rather than be an appointee of the governor.
“The idea that you have a stable person that’s outside the realm of politics in charge of economic development is essential,” Adams said in the Arizona Guardian.
For more information:
“Stakeholders call for change; council listens,” Arizona Republic, 04/18/2010
“New commerce authority would be focused, edgy,” Arizona Republic, 04/17/2010
“Commerce Department to be replaced by privately run authority,” Arizona Guardian, 04/14/2010
“Brewer plans to eliminate, replace Commerce Department,” Arizona Capitol Times, 04/14/2010
“Governor Jan Brewer Unveils New Model for Economic Development,” Office of the Governor news release, 04/14/2010