Arizona is home to the fastest-growing county in the nation and the fifth-largest city in the country. In spite of this growth, according to a recent report, authored by Trevor Stokes, several key industries across the state are at a critical imbalance and experiencing workforce shortages—shortages that are only projected to increase. In order to sustain Arizona’s economic prosperity and ensure that it continues as the state’s population expands, community leaders and policymakers must support this growth through strategic investments.
“Wouldn’t it be fantastic if people didn’t just point to Arizona as a fast-growing community, but a community of higher wealth and higher quality of life? And more job opportunities for area residents where we’re not just importing workers, but we’re actually producing our own high-quality talent,” said Jim Rounds, President of Rounds Consulting Group, Inc.
According to Rounds, growth is good, but growing well is better. Rounds shared that adding value to Arizona’s economy by enhancing economic productivity through better development of the supply of labor, and better investment in infrastructure is key.
By advocating for investments that support the creation of more quality jobs and developing more robust talent pipelines, leaders have the ability to ensure that Arizona continues to be a place where individuals can be economically prosperous.
“Higher education activity is what creates those high value-added jobs that then creates spin-off opportunities. So you need to have high-wage, highly-educated individuals and high-value-added companies bringing that money into the state,” said Rounds. “And then, that money bounces around; that’s the multiplier effect we hear about. And that creates the demand for everything else.”
According to Rounds, Arizona’s state university system has an impact on the state’s economic prosperity.
“I don’t think higher education gets enough attention, because if we didn’t have that higher education support in our economy, then our economic well-being would be a minuscule fraction of where it is right now,” said Rounds.
“If we don’t continue to elevate our workforce into those higher value-added areas, it’s going to sum to tremendous lost opportunity in terms of revenues,” Rounds said.
Rounds also said that an alternative way of looking at the state’s recent history is from a more positive lens. For example, the extreme economic downturn at the end of the last decade made us reexamine our competitiveness in tax policy, economic development programs, the regulatory environment, and making of the state, among others. This created a strong economic foundation for us to build upon. The real discussion should involve thanking our lawmakers for getting us to this point, and allowing the economy to further develop through the aforementioned strategic investment. In other words, rather than talk about missed opportunities in the past, we should be talking about the incredible opportunities that are still in front of us.
His research has shown that an increase in the number of jobs and the quality of jobs will positively impact the state’s economy and enable the state to better invest in key services like education and roads.
“Just for perspective, if we just added 0.1 percentage point to the employment forecast […], after ten years, that’s a $1 billion in state and local tax collections and 40,000 new jobs that would be created. If we were able to increase our business recruitment by as little as 25%, that’s another $2 billion and 65,000 jobs.”
The point that Rounds is trying to make is that quality public policy indeed impacts the economy. Furthermore, very small changes in the state’s economic figures result in massive changes in terms of the state’s fiscal health.
Rounds believes that now is the time for the community to coalesce and act by investing in the state’s future. He expects that Arizona’s economy will continue to be strong and expand with the right public policy initiatives.
“So we’re growing in terms of quantity, now we’re shifting to quality. And, I’m very bullish on our state if we can continue to make such improvements,” said Rounds.