Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce CEO and President Todd Sanders recently sat down with CopperTalk podcast host Barrett Marson to discuss the economic development initiative Phoenix Forward.

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GPCC President and CEO Todd Sanders

Phoenix Forward was launched in April to grow the economy through nurturing businesses in the region. A huge part of this initiative is data collection and analysis. Though it’s still early, some trends have emerged, Sanders said.

“When we talk to employers, they’re either having trouble finding people to fill positions they have open so they can expand or recruiting here in Phoenix.”

It’s a common gripe for businesses—the talent gap. The pool of qualified workers isn’t large enough and workers available don’t have the exact skills to match up. Economists refer to this as skills mismatch. A survey conducted by the National Federation of Independent Business shows a recent increase of small-business owners citing “labor quality” as a problem.

Knowing that Phoenix business leaders are concerned about talent mismatch has already driven efforts to correct this and higher education shouldn’t be overlooked.

The data from Phoenix Forward will help inform policy makers, specifically when it comes to starting a conversation about putting more money into community college funding.

“When you look at kids going into community colleges, 70 percent of those kids have to be remediated because they can’t do well in 101-level classes. So how will they be career-ready?” Sander said.

With results from Phoenix Forward’s data collection, Sanders hopes to help Phoenicians understand what’s going on in the market and how to grow the economy.

“I think that will inform us when we’re ready to go to the Legislature and say ‘this is going to have to be a priority.”

Education isn’t the only thing that’ll help push our economy forward, strengthening transportation infrastructure will ultimately help.

“The Chamber isn’t excited about supporting a tax increase, so it’s not something we took lightly,” Sanders said. “But infrastructure is important. You have to have it. When you think about Texas, Dallas and Houston have a robust transportation system. On the other hand, Austin is struggling and they are having to do something about it.”

It’s important to have strong education and general infrastructure when it comes to discussing relocation with outside companies, Sanders added. “I think part of our job is to tell the Arizona Story in a much different way.”

Posted by Alexie Chavez