As we celebrate Economic Development Week, we highlight the success of economic development professionals throughout Maricopa County and Arizona and look forward to what we can accomplish together.
Last week, Chamber Vice President of Economic Development Jennifer Mellor, our Phoenix Forward economic development team, business leaders and I connected with economic development professionals and reaffirmed that a regional Phoenix Forward economic development effort is not only impactful, but enhanced collaboration is key to its continued success.
One key takeaway both Jennifer and I had from the Arizona Association for Economic Development’s Spring Conference in Lake Havasu City is the high value of the real-time, relational data we and our partners collect through our regional business retention and expansion program. While most of this data is available through a variety of data tools, it is often lagging and doesn’t accurately reflect the fast-changing business climate of today. This type of information can only be collected through personal conversations with businesses and is vitally important to understanding and reacting to the needs of local businesses.
Since the inception of Phoenix Forward, the Chamber and our partners have used this information to drive strategy, transforming our community from reactive to proactive.
Companies tell us that availability of a quality workforce is their No. 1 challenge. Maricopa Community Colleges and Arizona State University have used this information to fine-tune their educational offerings. It drives the city of Phoenix to recruit companies such as Galvanize; and led our Chamber to start five workforce collaboratives focused on closing the gap between business and education.
This deep understanding of the business climate is not only necessary to retain businesses but also pays dividends when recruiting businesses here. It helps determine the effectiveness of individual deal-closing incentives and frames public policy and advocacy work, which aims to create and maintain a pro-business regulatory environment, including business-friendly tax structures. We do well as individual cities, chambers and economic development organizations. The impact would be much greater if we applied this approach as a regional team.
During the conference, we also discussed the need to develop a Greater Phoenix regional brand. When you consider the growing economy, numerous high-paying career opportunities being created, great recreational opportunities and our improving educational system, we have a lot to work with to create an enviable regional brand. We just need additional like-minded public and private entities to partner with us to define and build the Greater Phoenix regional brand.
Talking about what we do as economic developers and how our actions turn into tangible results is also important. We are great at collecting statistics and numbers, but we need to be sure we are properly analyzing those numbers, coming to meaningful conclusions and taking decisive action. Understanding the labor market and how companies utilize economic and workforce development services to drive their business help guide our ongoing strategies and put us ahead of the curve in attracting and retaining businesses.
Ultimately, attending this conference confirmed for us how much opportunity there is to connect with other economic development-focused organizations. And given that we all share common goals, there’s no reason not to combine forces – as partners – in these efforts.
Let’s grow our regional economy together.