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New Economic Vision Urged For Arizona

By Gary Nelson for The Arizona Republic

Arizona State University President Michael Crow and Mesa Mayor Scott Smith beat the economic development drum loudly Thursday when several hundred business and political leaders gathered in Tempe. The occasion was the East Valley Partnership’s annual SRP-sponsored economic forum at the Mission Palms Hotel.

Using a chart in which 100 percent represents the national average, Crow said Arizona’s per-person output is only about 83 percent, and it has been falling since peaking at 92 percent more than half a decade ago.

If Arizona’s productivity matched Colorado’s, he said, the state’s economy would be $76.4 billion larger per year. “This is unacceptable,” he said, adding that “a poorly functioning regional innovation system” bears much of the blame.

It was a more sober message than the one Crow had delivered the week before to a meeting of the Chandler Chamber of Commerce.

In the earlier speech, he made a stirring defense of Arizona as a place of innovation and educational achievement whose positives are overshadowed by reams of negative publicity. “The economic development challenge for Arizona, in my view, is our inability to express the creativity, adaptability, successful way of doing business, the free-enterprise spirit and the things that go on here,” Crow told the Chandler group.

He did say Arizona has other problems, including an economic development tool box without enough tools.

Taking a swipe at the state Legislature’s approach in recent years, he said, “All of our emphasis on tax policy and tax discussions … they’re trivial by comparison to the notion of how do you actually get resources into Arizona to be spent in Arizona for Arizona.”

In an ensuing panel discussion, Smith said Arizona’s best opportunities lie outside its borders, if it can tap into the rapidly growing global economy. But, he said, no one seems to be in charge of trying to do that.

Read more at AZCentral