Greater Phoenix is where innovation-enabling assets are concentrated in the state, accounting for around 70% of the state’s population, jobs, and economic output. Our region must set an accelerated course to solidify the nascent innovation-driven economy that takes on the global challenges of climate change, disruptive technologies, and shared prosperity. GPEC is convening business, community, civic and policy leaders to facilitate a dialogue towards this end.
The economic imperatives presented below are initial thematic areas of focus for envisioning the region’s 2030 future, focused on driving future competitiveness and opportunities for inclusive economic policies. Dialogue around these imperatives are taking hold in business leadership organizations, boardrooms, and city council and legislative chambers.
01 | Advance Career Technical Education (CTE), STEM and engineering pathways.
Over the next ten years, STEM occupations will grow two times faster than all occupations and it is critical that our market meets the needs of the expanding economy. To facilitate the successful technological adoption and fuel future growth in Greater Phoenix, industries are demanding quality labor with technical skills and technological know-how. This rising employer demand can be met with a coordinated system of multiple pathways to STEM careers from early childhood education to community colleges and universities.
“What we get out of a sufficient pipeline related to STEM education is an opportunity for students to learn early on. So, we need to have a pipeline that has pre-K involved in it, all the way up to the university level. In that is an opportunity for students of all backgrounds.”
Dr. Steven Gonzales
Interim Chancellor, Maricopa County Community College District
02 | Meet the needs of Title 1 schools.
Title 1 is a federal program that provides supplemental funding to schools with higher concentration of students from low-income families. Title 1 schools have 40% or more students enrolled in the free and reduced lunch program. When Title 1 schools are sufficiently resourced, and education-innovation is embraced, they can deliver the workforce of the future and enable all students to capitalize on the opportunities of the new economy. There is overwhelming evidence that quality pre-kindergarten contributes to student success in K-12.
Brookings reviewed studies from across the country and concluded:
“Children’s early learning trajectories depend on the quality of their learning experiences not only before and during their pre-k year, but also following the pre-k year. Classroom experiences early in elementary school can serve as charging stations for sustaining and amplifying pre-k learning gains. One good bet for powering up later learning is elementary school classrooms that provide individualization and differentiation in instructional content and strategies.”
“I believe we have a moral and economic imperative to support our Title 1 schools. It matters for Arizona. We have to make sure that schools who are preparing students for life after high school, for college and workforce, that they have the tools they need to support students and their families. These students can be the thriving workforce we want them to be.”
Executive Director, ALL in Education
03 | Expand and foster a robust entrepreneurial ecosystem.
Greater Phoenix’s entrepreneurial advantage needs to be bolstered by an ecosystem of industries, investors, mentors, universities and research centers, and the public sector all playing a supporting role in scaling up businesses in high-tech growth sectors. Public policies and regulations will create a testing ground to support new and existing companies, and allow them to grow, create more jobs and generate higher revenues. For Greater Phoenix companies to unlock investment capital needed to scale, there needs to be a sharper focus on product development and validation.
“I want Greater Phoenix to be the place where the next billion-dollar companies are born. This will attract global resources, international attention, and the talent we need to truly make this region one of the greatest regions of the world.”
Co-Founder and President, Botco.ai
04 | Accelerate industry and university collaborations.
The fourth industrial revolution will fundamentally change the way we live, work and relate to one another. This is an opportunity for Greater Phoenix to lead the technology domains where we have expertise and industrial capacity. Recent semiconductor investments by TSMC and Intel represent a transformative moment for our region. We can leverage these private-sector investments to accelerate the shift to an innovation-driven economy enabled by an expanded engineering education and rapid technology transfers.
Our region needs to continue investing in talent development, applied research and testing, and physical lab and engineering infrastructure. We need to incentivize university-industry collaborations to accelerate the pace of commercialization and growth of the new economy.
“The industry-university collaboration is important for innovation because it brings together youthful minds and creative energy with the more established techniques and industry, not to mention capital and other resources. It is that combination of young spirit and established way of doing that really can be productive.”
Dr. Michael Lawton
President & CEO, Barrow Neurological Institute
05 | Capitalize on environmental resiliency practices.
The realities of climate change, community resilience and economic growth are intersecting in significant ways in Greater Phoenix and around the world. Only by inventing, testing and applying innovative solutions in the broad spectrum of environmental pillars can our region emerge as a leader in the new economy. We need to leverage federal investments in the clean energy transition, coordinate with the state to support clean energy policies, and create “sandboxes” to test, validate and scale climate change technologies. We also need to align public and private resources to leverage climate technology advancements to invent, test and adopt solutions in support of the environment.
“By 2030 Intel is on track to be net zero user of water. Over the years we have implemented water practices that are more sustainable. From an environment standpoint, we need to do our part, the business community needs to do its part, and the community needs to be engaged to ensure we can continue living and enjoying our lives and innovating for many more years to come. Environmental responsibility is not an option it is an imperative.”
Senior Director of State & Government Affairs, Intel Corporation
06 | Continue the strong history of water planning and conservation.
The recent and historic tier 1 shortage declaration along the Colorado River will impact 8% of the state’s total water use. While Greater Phoenix has capitalized on growth for decades, the future depends on the region’s smart use of water and natural resources. Greater Phoenix communities need to continue maximizing efficiency in utilizing natural resources. Long-term planning and conservation, the invention and adoption of sustainable technologies and cross-sector cooperation will drive the region’s sustained growth and prosperity.
“The foundation for smart water planning was laid over 100 years ago. Arizonans should consider our water position because we do live in a desert, and we need to be wise about our supply. We have had great collaboration over the years, and we need to continue that going forward to position Arizona favorably for generations to come.”
Associate General Manager, Salt River Project
07 | Induce smart growth principles and expand community tools for infrastructure and redevelopment.
Arizona is the 11th-most urbanized state in the country. In the next decade, urbanization will continue to intensify, but differently from the past. Telecommuting and new modes of mobility and delivery, such as drones and self-driving cars, will shape the future of our urban growth. Climate change and rising infrastructure costs will influence behaviors and affordability will drive us to rethink the concept of smart growth.
Our communities need new development tools to align broad development trends and meet local needs. These expanded development resources include creative financing and public-private partnerships for infrastructure improvements, in-fill development, affordable housing, site remediation and small business lending and financing.
“Smart growth will allow us to take underutilized properties, repurpose them to their next highest and best economic opportunity. In doing so we reduce traffic congestion, pollution and overall consumption of resources. Growth can be a net positive for our community.”
Economic Development Director, City of Chandler
08 | Continue modernizing Arizona’s tax system.
Arizona’s state and local tax system is fundamentally interdependent on economic growth.
Education, healthcare and infrastructure investments make communities more competitive and returns on these public investments are realized through sustained economic growth. State and local taxes keep our communities resilient and are vital to our region’s competitiveness.
“Modernizing the tax system in Arizona is fundamental to building an education system that meets the workforce needs of the future. It also means building infrastructure needs such as utility, water and roads, things that will really make an impact into the future.”
Economic Development Director, City of Surprise
09 | Strengthen the middle class.
National income growth of top and bottom quintiles outpaced the middle classes by more than double.
Middle-class Arizonans feel the impacts of weak income growth and a rapidly changing economy driven by technology and innovation. The region’s resilience is tied to the strengths of its middle class. A resilient future is achievable when more disadvantaged Arizonans move into the middle-income tier through stable careers with job security, benefits, continuing education and professional growth. And through access to affordable housing, family-sustaining wages and the opportunity to build intergenerational wealth.
“Any region’s resilience is tied to opportunities for everyone in the economy to participate. Participating in an economy means you have the opportunity to build generational wealth, have adequate healthcare, access to capital, the ability to start or grow a business, and an opportunity advance your opportunities in life.”
CEO, Local First Arizona
10 | Unlock the potential of changing demographics of the region.
Our region must embrace its increasing diversity and create more access to capital in startup and growth companies, advance education access and opportunity, and enrich community building across diverse stakeholder groups.
Greater Phoenix had the third-largest population gain in the country between 2010 and 2019. Racial minorities were responsible for 68% of that growth. Our rapid population growth and changing demography favorably position our labor market for long-term growth. This demographic shift will infuse diversity of perspectives and values into the cultural DNA of our region.
We need to address national and global misperceptions about the region and realign them with the demographic changes underway.
“Innovation comes from different backgrounds and diverse ways of thinking, and the changing demographic in Arizona represents a significant opportunity. It gives us a chance to rethink how we grow, how we share our growth and embrace new values. It gives us the opportunity to see Arizona’s culture flourish in new ways.”
Student Regent, Arizona Board of Regents