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FEBRUARY Friday Morning Breakfast

Posted By Heather Garbarino, Monday, March 2, 2020

Trends, tools for Valley’s growth

Panel of economic development experts look to the future


With plenty of sunshine, new residents pouring into the state every day and the Great Recession clearly in the rearview mirror, it’s no secret that the Valley boasts a robust tool kit when it comes to economic development.


With all this momentum, panelists at the February Friday Morning Breakfast agreed, now is the time for the Valley to take advantage of the latest trends including international commerce and development, opportunity zones, community facilities districts, GPLETs and the future for TIF.


“2019 was a record year for Mesa,” said panelist Bill Jabjiniak, Economic Development Director for the City of Mesa. “ASU and St. Augustine University were game changers for downtown Mesa. Plus, we had Waymo, Google and SkyBridge make huge economic impacts. We have the workforce. There are now 1.4 million residents in Mesa. And we have the facilities.


“It’s not just us (Mesa). There is a great story to tell what’s going on in the East Valley as a whole,” he added.

From the East Valley to the West Valley, the story is same, said Kevin Phelps, City Manager, City of Glendale.


“It’s no secret that we’ve been incredibly busy in the West Valley,” Phelps said proudly. “The economy and growth of our cities is being managed intelligently. The 303 corridor has continued to be a major economic driver. We’re learning more about annexation by leading a series of workshops. We have to use our land correctly and find the best areas for development.


“In Glendale, we want to totally reshape the view of the Westgate area,” he said.


So, what are some of the tools in the toolbox? Zach Sakas, Bond Counsel, Sherman & Howard, shared his thoughts on the Government Property Lease Excise Tax (GPLET), opportunity ones and Community Facilities Districts (CFP).


“These are basically three tools whose benefits are mutual,” Sakas said. “But the key for each of them to really work is putting the right team together. It’s the approach everyone concerned takes. My advice is to use the resources that are available to you.”


Our trade partners to the North and South also play big roles in the Valley’s economic muscle. Top of mind was the new USMCA, a free trade agreement between the United States, Mexico and Canada that replaces NAFTA.

Glenn Williamson, CEO/Founder, Canada Business Council, said the foreign direct investment (FDI) between Canada and Arizona is a huge boon to both economies.


“With Arizona being such a pro-business state and hundreds of days of sunshine, why would investors from Canada not want to come here,” Williamson said. “There is a lot of interest in Arizona. Turnaround time and speed …  a passion for getting things done, all of this is not lost on these FDIs. Word gets around fast.


“This includes residential real estate. Back in the day, a third of Scottsdale was built by a Canadian company. Fifty percent of the residents in Yuma are Canadian. There is truly a welcome mat out.”


Moderator Kelly Patton, Senior Economic Development Director, APS, asked each panelist for a take-away to share with the audience. Jabjiniak summed up the breakfast the best.


“Invest in the future. Invest in education. Invest in infrastructure. Protect exploited areas,” he said.


To which Patton responded:

“We are state 48; we are toddlers. Thinking big; that’s our next step.”



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