What has it done for us and how will it help us going forward?

by RaeAnne Marsh

Between the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program and its Economic Injury Disaster Loan & Advance Programs, a total of $13.18 billion in federal financial support has flowed into our state to help small businesses during the pandemic, according to the Arizona Commerce Authority. “Just over 96,000 Arizona PPP loans have been approved in all rounds of the program,” says Sandra Watson, ACA president and CEO. “In addition, 62,005 Economic Injury Disaster Loans and 93,559 Economic Injury Disaster Loan Advance Payments were approved for Arizona businesses.”

The Greater Phoenix Economic Council’s analysis of SBA data has found that, factoring all three rounds of PPP funding through the end of January this year, more than 70 percent of eligible Arizona small businesses received funding through the Paycheck Protection Program. “This,” says GPEC president and CEO Chris Camacho, “is in addition to the local grants and relief programs provided by so many of our community and nonprofit partners that have been invaluable to thousands of small businesses, people and families across the region.”

And the Benefits Go to …

The largest benefit has been the impact of PPP to allow qualified small-business owners and nonprofits, where possible, to continuing paying wages and keep workers employed. “The loan is forgivable if utilized for qualified expenses, which include employee wages and rent,” explains Gary Molenda, president of Business Development Finance Corporation. And Mike Huckins, vice president of Public Affairs with the Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce, observes, “While not a flawless program, withou = it many more jobs and businesses would have been lost.”

Stephen Jordan, senior vice president and chief financial officer of Desert Financial Credit Union, shares, “Member demand for this program was overwhelming.” For the months of April through August, Desert Financial helped more than 1,200 businesses with nearly $49 million in funded loans, saving more than 6,800 jobs. “Since then, we have been actively working with those recipients to seek SBA forgiveness on those loan balances with great success.

Noting that Desert Financial is Arizona’s largest credit union, Jordan adds, “The Paycheck Protection Program was a golden opportunity for Desert Financial to assist our business members who were heavily impacted by the pandemic.

The COVID-19 pandemic proved that our focus on giving back and providing financial solutions that make lives better are much more than buzzwords,” Jordan notes, “Rather than pulling back and protecting our balance sheet, Desert Financial doubled down on having our stakeholders’ (members, employees and community) backs. We provided more than $5.0 million in COVID-19 relief to our stakeholders. Whether it was $500,000 in contributions to area food banks or providing tens of thousands of loan payment deferrals or modifications to borrowers who just needed some financial breathing room, Desert Financial stepped up in a major way to help those who needed it most.” For those actions, Desert Financial received a trifecta of third-party recognitions in 2020: Angel of the Year – Business, one of Arizona’s Most Admired Companies honoree and the number two spot on the list of Best Places to Work.

Watson spells out many of the ACA’s efforts statewide: “The ACA was proud to partner with Governor Ducey’s office to administer a $1 million grant program allocated to chambers of commerce across the state to implement or expand initiatives that support small businesses and accelerate local economic recovery.” She notes that, in August, Governor Ducey’s office provided $10 million in rent and mortgage assistance to small businesses that had to pause operations during the pandemic and it recently announced a total of $3 million in commitments to-date for the Safest Outside Restaurant Assistance Program, funding up to $10,000 per restaurant for items they need to extend their outdoor dining premise, including outdoor furniture, barriers, patio heaters, patio covers and more. “Finally, the Governor’s office has partnered with invisionAZ and StartupAZ to administer the $1 million EmergeAZ Fast Grant to assist early-stage companies that are advancing tech solutions designed to address pandemic impacts.”

Also working hard has been the Arizona Community Foundation, which worked with eight municipalities to support 12 Small Business Relief Grant programs. “We were able to distribute over 7,200 grants representing over $96 million,” says Lisa Dancsok, chief brand and impact officer. “This financial support into the local economy meant job retention, rent payments, operating revenue replacements and general support for small businesses”

Local First was involved in making direct recommendations to the state on policies through the pandemic that were critical to helping small businesses. Thomas Barr, vice president of Business Development, cites some of the policies that had a positive impact: ensuring farmers markets continued operating through business closure mandates, allowing restaurants to temporarily sell alcohol and grocery items to go, ensuring extension of premises permits were enacted to allow food and dining businesses to operate in safer environments outdoors, providing the opportunity for food trucks to continue operating at highway rest stops to serve food to truck drivers during the statewide shelter-in-place order, and working with local governments to distribute CARES Act dollars and build out small-business relief grant programs in Superior, Globe, Phoenix, Yuma and Somerton.

Local First Arizona has participated in directing hundreds of small businesses across the state to access stimulus aid locally and federally,” says Barr. “We offered technical assistance to businesses unfamiliar with the process of applying for the Emergency Injury Disaster Loan and Paycheck Protection Program through direct connections to accountants, payroll specialists and local banks to assist them in obtaining funding. Additionally, Local First administered more than $2 million in grant assistance to 600-plus microenterprises through our Small Business Relief Fund that was privately funded and $10 million to 789 businesses through the Rent and Mortgage Relief program funded by the state of Arizona. We assisted in funding businesses in every county of the state.”

The first number that John Lewis, senior vice president of Business Banking at National Bank of Arizona, shares is 62,500. “And counting,” he adds. “That’s how many jobs in Arizona have been saved through National Bank of Arizona’s efforts in helping businesses secure Paycheck Protection Program loans,” he says — roughly the total population of Flagstaff. Describing the high-level numbers ($731 million over 5,350 approved loans as of June 2020) as “staggering,” Lewis says, “What we’re most proud of is that jobs number.

“Because the truth is, these aren’t just jobs. They’re individuals from nearly 160 cities and municipalities across Arizona who can continue providing for their families, rest a little easier at night, and avoid having to make unimaginably difficult decisions due to a loss of income.

Of the 5,354 loans we’ve helped get approved, 67% have been for small businesses with 10 employees or less,” Lewis continues. “These kinds of mom-and-pop businesses form the backbone of any community — they aren’t just the kinds of places where the owner knows your name and treats you like a friend, these are the places that foster local economies by keeping money close to home.”

Business Not as Usual …

Over the past year, Arizonans have benefitted from both federal and local policies. Pointing out that, in December, the President signed into law continued unemployment assistance that includes pandemic-specific assistance, GPCC’s Mike Huckins says this “was a significant change in Arizona. These programs provide additional time for people who are experiencing unemployment as a result of COVID-19, so long as they provide the required documentation.

“Arizona businesses did benefit from shorter shutdown periods than other states, and with most cities and counties having mask mandates, businesses were able to open safely in a shorter period of time than in other areas of the country. Additionally,” Huckins continues, “aid for school districts and rental assistance programs have greatly benefited local communities.”

Organizations we rely on, public and private, have been the enablers in this process — to translate intent into effect.

Says Huckins, “Throughout the pandemic, the Chamber altered our activities to best respond to the immediate needs of our member businesses and the community. We found that what people needed most urgently was information, specifically on the Paycheck Protection Program and other assistance to help their companies stay afloat during the initial months of the pandemic.” To address that need, Greater Phoenix Chamber hosted several webinars and put out communications on how businesses could apply for these loans, key deadlines, and how to navigate those processes. And more: “The Chamber’s advocacy team lobbied diligently for more funds locally, especially given Arizona’s status as a small business state. By altering our areas of focus directly to crisis support, we were able to better inform the business community and help them access the funding needed to keep their employees paid and their doors open.”

Efforts by Local First include working to assist businesses that previously did not have digital platforms to sell online transitioned quickly to allow people to purchase from them online. “In addition to providing training and technical assistance to help businesses set up their own platforms,” says Barr, “we launched the Shop AZ Marketplace in November 2020, a one-of-a-kind online marketplace showcasing art, jewelry, gifts, clothing, furniture, and more from small businesses.” Local First has also provided more than 50 digital trainings; more than 500 consultations to businesses needing assistance in accounting, HR, marketing and business pivots; and assisted more than 800 businesses to successfully obtain financial assistance. “Through this direct assistance, our team has maintained a pulse on small businesses’s ongoing needs and continues to advocate for the type of aid that will be needed for small businesses long-term as we work to revive the economy.”

Desert Financial had to launch a completely new loan program in just 30 days to be ready to submit applications on day one. “That required new software, vendor relationships and additional human resources to meet unprecedented lending demand,” says Jordan. “Credit unions are traditionally viewed as financial institutions that cater to consumers. Our success in the first phase sends a strong message that we are ready, willing and able to also meet the needs of businesses throughout Arizona.

“A key part of the PPP program is the ability to forgive some or all of the initial loan if certain conditions and supporting documentation requirements are met,” Jordan continues. “To date, Desert Financial has worked very closely with nearly 100 businesses that have had all or part of their loan proceeds forgiven. We look forward to substantial continued progress in the coming months.”

At the National Bank of Arizona, Lewis shares, PPP challenged bankers to complete tasks that were “somewhat foreign to them” and many employees worked nights and weekends to ensure the small businesses obtained the necessary funds. “The bank was able to build a system from scratch to facilitate a streamlined online system for processing PPP applications in a number of weeks, which made it possible for businesses to access the capital. Bankers felt a sense of responsibility of helping out our fellow citizens and realized that this was much more than typical banking. During the pandemic, our bank — and the industry — has found more efficient ways to utilize technology and connect with clients through different channels.” He foresees the way bankers interact with clients being different going forward. “I feel banking will always have a level of personal touch but the way we connect with clients going forward will forever be altered due to the pandemic.”

Arizona Community Foundation had to pivot quickly to provide immediate relief grants to more than 700 nonprofits providing support to the community in need, implement 12 different small-business relief grant programs with different eligibility criteria and program timelines, implement a remote work environment, and complete a technology transformation that was already in motion before the pandemic hit — all while adapting to what Dancsok describes as the highest volume of transactions in ACF’s 43-year history. “We have grown stronger and our team has learned the flexibility needed to adjust,” she says.

At the state level, the Arizona Commerce Authority has played a leadership role in ensuring that businesses and their employees in our state are connected to resources on how to access federal and local aid. “We’ve done so through the COVID-19 resources hub on our website, azcommerce.com, and our virtual Small Business Boot Camp programming in partnership with Local First Arizona, which has now completed 40 consecutive weeks and served more than 6,300 participants,” Watson says.

Recently, eight Arizona small businesses were featured in the America’s Small Business Development Center Annual Report based on their resilience and success during the pandemic:

Superstition Meadery in Prescott and Phoenix, Rosebird Farms in Kingman and Digitile in Phoenix, all of which have been Small Business Boot Camp presenters and Digitile also a member of the ACA’s Arizona Innovation Challenge portfolio; Hank’s Trading Post in Coconino County; Your Greens in Yuma; Resuture LLC in Surprise; Flying Leap Vineyards in Tucson; and Nemean Solutions LLC in Sierra Vista.

“Small businesses are the backbone of Arizona’s economy, and ensuring they successfully navigate pandemic challenges is a key area of focus for the ACA,” Watson says. “The ACA has always served small businesses; however, with the onset of the pandemic, this became a priority for our team.” ACA was able to lean on technology to enable the organization to deliver online resources, virtual programming and educational messaging via statewide marketing campaigns. Watson reports that as of early February, Small Business Boot Camp has had more than 6,300 participants, the COVID-19 and Return Stronger Upskilling webpages have had more than 322,000 unique visitors since launch, and ACA’s statewide campaigns have earned more than 13 million impressions across digital and broadcast channels.

“No sector has been more impacted by the effects of COVID-19 than small business, which is the backbone of Arizona’s economy,” says Camacho. Putting this in context, he notes the nearly 600,000 small businesses across the state make up 99.4% of all businesses; employ 1.1 million people, or 44% of the state’s workforce; and most main street operations have an average capital runway of just 27 days. “Getting small businesses relief through federal and local programs was paramount, but the application and reimbursement processes for capital allocated through the CARES Act and implemented by the Small Business Administration (SBA) was not without challenges,” he says. “In March 2020, GPEC and our partners quickly stood up numerous online resources to assist those in need with the application process through loan forgiveness.”

GPEC also enhanced its digital infrastructure to best serve the community, which included an online chat feature at GPEC.org to answer questions from the public in real time. “In fact,” Camacho says, sharing what has emerged as the common element in responding to COVID-19’s disruption,” what’s changed the most is the digital side. With all the digital tools we have today, you can do so much more. From marketing to business development, the progression of industry is happening at a rapid pace, which enables us to tell our story in creative ways more than ever.

“We gleaned insights from our financial and lending partners to develop tips and materials to increase loan approval chances,” Camacho continues, “and we communicated this critical information through our digital marketing and PR channels while simultaneously launching a virtual series, ‘Regional Report,’ ensuring we were providing the market and our stakeholders with the latest data and insights about the region’s economy and impact on different sectors.”

GPEC focused its recent monthly Ambassador event on the topic of “Maximizing Your PPP Loan” and, with the third-round application deadline quickly approaching, opened the webinar up to small businesses in search of more information about the process. “During this major organizational pivot to focus on assisting small businesses, we continued our mission of growing and attracting businesses from around the world and advocating for the competitiveness of Greater Phoenix,” Camacho says.

Funding and Feeling the Benefit …

“We tend to measure impact, often, by how it is affecting overall economic activity,” says Bart Hobijn, a professor of economics at W. P. Carey School of Business. He believes focusing on the impact on GDP, in this case, really distorts the picture because of the inequality in the U.S. “What matters most for GDP is the income and spending of the richest 25% of households; however, what matters most for the well-being of Americans, especially of those affected by the pandemic, is food security, shelter security, healthcare and, of course, staying healthy throughout the pandemic.” He cites income support in the form of unemployment insurance, federal funding for COVID-related medical care, expansion of SNAP and moratoria on evictions and foreclosures as, arguably, the aspects of the stimulus that have had the greatest impact on those most affected by the pandemic’s disruption.

Among the key policies and stimulus executive orders that have provided the greatest local benefit, Watson notes that, at the state level, Governor Ducey has prioritized protecting lives and livelihoods throughout the pandemic. “Service industry businesses have been among the hardest hit, and many actions taken by the Governor have helped them navigate the pandemic challenges. This includes executive orders to ease restrictions on sales of alcohol to-go, outline safe dining guidelines for customers, and financial support to enhance outdoor dining facilities and pay rent or mortgage,” she says. “Local governments across Arizona also implemented changes to help expand access to common spaces for increased outdoor dining capacity and created grant programs for small businesses.”

“It has been a combination of federal, local and community aid coupled with executive and legislative action that has provided the greatest benefit to businesses and residents who need it most,” Camacho says. But what indicators are there that benefit is being felt?

“When restrictions were put into place in April of 2020, there were a lot of businesses that did not know if they would survive,” says Lewis. “Having access to PPP funds helped many businesses bridge the gap and pay employees as they determined what the long-term impacts would be. In many instances, the PPP funds provided the needed time for the businesses to adjust and continue to operate their businesses.”

A key indicator Molenda points to that BDFC clients have benefited from the stimulus is employee retention documented through payroll reports submitted with forgiveness applications.

Dancsok puts a human face on all this as she relates, “The greatest indicator is the hundreds of ‘Thank You’ notes businesses took time to write to express their gratitude for keeping their businesses going during very difficult times. Most of them provided information on the employees they were able to keep on payroll when they had significantly reduced business revenue,” And she adds, “The best indicator is that people are able to rehire staff and get operations going again.”

The Economics of COVID and Stimulus …

Professor Hobijn discusses the impact of stimulus efforts locally and on the broader economy:

“Stimulus has provided specific support for small businesses most affected by the pandemic and those who lost income. The PPP program has helped prevent bankruptcies of many businesses who had access to loans and grants to the program. The extensions and expansions of unemployment insurance have replaced lost income for those who lost their job due to the pandemic. These are mainly low-income workers and, disproportionately, women and minorities. Unemployment insurance expansions and extensions during a crisis are particularly important in a state like Arizona where regular UI benefits are low. Of course, the pandemic has laid bare the underinvestment of the state in its UI system, which has made implementation of the extensions and expansions cumbersome and caused delays in the payments of benefits to many recipients. In addition, we have seen moratoria on evictions and foreclosures that temporarily reduce the impact of the pandemic on those who lose the income needed to pay for their shelter.

The highest profile measure of the stimulus, the tax rebate checks, provided less targeted income support, and data suggest they have been largely used for saving rather than spending — limiting their stimulative impact on the economy.

Tax rebate checks, which are, again, one of the high-profile aspects of the legislation, are a more broad-brushed measure to stimulate income (and, through it, spending). The more targeted these checks are to those who are most likely to spend the rebates (that is, those with the highest marginal propensity to consume), the more stimulative the impact of these checks per dollar spent. The measure in the CARES Act that has flown under the radar screen is that it included $161 billion in tax cuts for corporations and the self-employed that largely benefited those in the top of the income distribution — effectively an addition to the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.

The question with any stimulus is always “what is the counterfactual?” What would have happened in the absence of the stimulus? It is probably worthwhile to look at other countries for comparison. Compared to Asia and Oceania (Australia and New Zealand), we have fared rather poorly. This is because the economic stimulus of the CARES Act and the Appropriations Act partially offsets the economic impact of the pandemic that could have been less if we had more effective public health policies (contact tracing and testing) in place from the get-go. Compared to Europe, we seem to be doing better. This partly seems to reflect the size of the stimulus passed. However, note that European countries do not need to expand or extend UI programs; they already have more generous programs in place.

As for the winners and losers in terms of the stimulus, this pandemic has shown again that businesses deemed too large to fail by the government — such as airlines, large hotel chains and agricultural conglomerates — have an implicit government guarantee. This was an issue for the financial sector in the 2008 crisis and has now shown to be the case for many more sectors. The result is that government policies in these crises involve picking winners and losers, largely based on access to politicians, which runs counter to what most economists think is important for long-run growth. There is an awareness of this in Washington. For example, the Fed put in place a Main Street Lending Facility. However, both this crisis and that of 2008 have shown that, as for programs targeted at smaller businesses, the government will have to be willing to take more risks on each individual business for the benefit of overall economic activity and has to work on accessibility and take-up of these programs by smaller businesses.

Phase I vs Phase II …

“The CARES Act was largely passed in the Spring of 2020 assuming the pandemic would be over by the end of 2020,” Professor Hobijn observes. He believes the second phase of the stimulus, starting with the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021 passed in December, will have to focus on alleviating the longer-run impact the pandemic has, most importantly making sure the persistent shortfall in income and spending does not lead to collateral damage. “Federal transfers to state and local governments are crucial for this,” he says, explaining they limit the impact of revenue shortfalls for state and local government on the employment of the more than 7.5 million payroll jobs at these governments.

“PPP, other federal programs like EIDL, and local relief funds and programs have been a lifeline for so many small businesses,” Camacho says. “The overperformance on the second round of PPP funding was incredibly important, and that has continued into the third round as well. The intent was to ensure small businesses could not only remain operational but retain employees.” Citing data released by the SBA in September 2020 and categorized by NAICS industry code that shows nearly 900,000 jobs were retained across the state as a result of PPP loans, he says there is no bigger focus than ensuring the employment base remains healthy. GPEC, he says, “remains committed to our mission of attracting and growing businesses so there are robust job opportunities available for the residents of Greater Phoenix.”

Lewis sees Round 1 as having been a big help to businesses during a time of significant uncertainty. “It came at a time when businesses were concerned about making it the next month or so,” he says. He believes Phase II will also be helpful especially to those industries impacted the most, such as restaurants and hotels, but anticipates a much lower volume because, he shares, “a number of clients ended up fairing okay after restrictions eased and there was less uncertainty.” He notes the process for Phase II is much more structured in an effort to ensure that the businesses that need it the most will be able to obtain the funds. Relating that National Bank of Arizona has been able to create a significant number of new relationships as a result of PPP, he says, “We expect we will continue to obtain new relationships with businesses through Phase II.”

Barr, of Local First Arizona, believes the greatest support comes from local financial institutions. Among the many challenges with the first phase of the first round of PPP funding was what he sees as a chronic issue with our financial systems that many small businesses were exposed to: “Too many big banks control our money and were not there to assist small businesses in a time of crisis.”

While many businesses were able to obtain funding through the second phase of the first round of PPP funding, he notes this was heavily impacted by the efforts of local banks, credit unions, and CDFI’s who stepped up to support them. “And our federal government took notice; in fact, they enacted policies that safeguarded funds for local institutions to distribute in the second round: $15 billion set aside for CDFIs and $15 billion set aside for banks, credit unions and other federally insured lenders with assets below $10 billion. This is because these institutions are established in the community, have long-term relationships built with small businesses, and make more informed decisions based on our local market.”

Jordan says Desert Financial Credit Union is particularly proud of how many loans were funded with relatively small balances, noting, “Many of those businesses did not have other outlets for assistance, as some other financial institutions appeared to focus on larger loan balances.” And he says Desert Financial is already actively funding additional loans in Phase II. “Even with vaccines starting to roll out across the nation, we know that small businesses will remain distressed for months to come, and this is one of the major ways that we can help with their financial well-being.”

Dancsok says ACF recognizes the tremendous need of businesses for immediate relief. “We do understand our work in getting grants out the door did not help everyone that was in need,” she says. Confiding, “The longer-term Phase II is still somewhat unknown to us,” she says ACF is looking at longer-term recovery as it considers the impact on nonprofits and small businesses. She believes more financial support will be required and more consolidations will occur. “We continue to monitor the impact and work with our collaborators and partners to understand and adapt.” She names affordable housing as one area ACF is focused on, as it impacts everyone in the community.

Looking Ahead …

As we look to the future, Molenda puts it very succinctly: “The vaccine is No. 1,” he says.

Crediting the first phase PPP with helping retain jobs during the initial crisis phase of the pandemic, Molenda says, “The second phase will buy time for the vaccine rollout to enable the economy to recover and, hopefully, prevent a recession.”

“We have been transparent since the precipice of COVID-19 that our ability to recover economically is contingent on the ability to control the virus,” Camacho says. He notes that COVID-19 cases have decreased [as of mid-February], and believes that, with vaccine distribution ramping up and more of the general public becoming inoculated, the economy will benefit.

“Overall, we’re cautiously optimistic about the region’s economic outlook,” Camacho says, pointing out that, through December 2020, Greater Phoenix has recovered 85% of jobs lost during the most recent downturn and the UArizona Economic and Business Research Center predicts Greater Phoenix will regain all jobs lost by the end of 2021 with an overall growth rate of 4%.

He notes, however, the recovery remains uneven. “Sectors such as leisure and hospitality, the government sector, professional and business services, and retail are still down. The unemployment rate in Greater Phoenix currently stands at 6.9%, down from a high of 12.5% in April 2020, but the unevenness in unemployment is consistent with recovery at large when looking at educational attainment and socioeconomic conditions, with those on the lower end of earning spectrum continuing to be most impacted.”

“We are optimistic that, as we move deeper into 2021, the state and national economies are poised for strong growth as the threat of COVID-19 recedes into the rearview mirror,” says Jordan. Looking back first at the passage by the 116th United States Congress of the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021, which was signed into law by President Trump on December 27th — with $900 billion in additional COVID-19 pandemic assistance that included Phase II of the PPP program as well as expanded federal unemployment benefits and another round of stimulus checks — and observing that President Biden and Congress are currently debating the size and timing of additional stimulus, which could ultimately range as high as $1.9 trillion, he notes, “The fiscal stimulus, in addition to historically low-interest rates, played a major role in helping cushion the economic blow that COVID-19 gave to our economy.”

According to Professor Hobijn, there are concerns that the large amounts of liquidity being infused into the economy will result in inflation going forward. Noting that this did not happen after the 2008 crisis, he says, “As long as it is clear that this is a one-time infusion to offset a shortfall in demand, I am not that worried about the inflationary impact of the stimulus and the associated increase in federal debt.” Pointing out that markets also do not price in any increase in inflation going forward, he says one concern that remains is whether the increase in liquidity is pushing up prices — not of what consumers buy, but of the assets that they and businesses own; that there might be asset price bubbles emerging in the stock and housing markets. “To the extent that these bubbles are not a direct threat to the financial system, they will probably not come back to haunt us,” he says, but cautions, “However, because of the unequal distribution of wealth, asset price increases disproportionately benefit the rich — and a side effect of the stimulus measures is an increase in inequality.”

Hobijn characterizes the response to the pandemic and the 2008 financial crisis as putting out fires. He believes what is needed now is a focus on (re-)building the house, which involves long-term investments. “Infrastructure, both physical and digital; public health; education; social justice reform; and more equal opportunities as well as improved sustainability of many sectors are some of the investments we should focus on for the longer-term future of the economy.”

Barr stresses the value of businesses, organizations and institutions procuring goods and services from local businesses in Arizona. “The larger shift we can make in localizing our spending, the larger impact it will have in stimulating our economy,” says, pointing out that services from office supplies and printing to information technology, phone services, accounting, human resources and payroll service providers, among others, can be sourced locally.

“Additionally,” Barr says, “Local First Arizona is positioning our state to be competitive for additional federal funding that will become available this year through the Arizona Economic Recovery Center. While recruiting manufacturing and technology firms from out of state has been an economic development strategy for years, the recovery center will be focused on helping foster a competitive, healthy small business community.” Referring to small businesses — which employ 44.5% of Arizona’s private workforce — as the driving force behind consistent job growth and building strong, equitable communities across our state, especially in rural Arizona, he says, “The recovery center will position communities often overlooked for funding opportunities to be prepared for future stimulus.”

Says Camacho, “On the business attraction side, there has never been more interest in Greater Phoenix than right now.” Sharing that, currently, 291 active prospects are evaluating the region, representing nearly 30,000 jobs and $24.5 billion in capital investment potential, he says, “There are major global shifts occurring as a result of the pandemic and Greater Phoenix is going to be one of those markets that emerges a winner.”

Posted by Jocelyn McAlpin