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Building Arizona’s Next Legacy: Infrastructure and Competitiveness

Last Wednesday was a busy day for our state's leaders.  First was the Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce Economic Outlook 2011 breakfast where economist Elliott Pollack told the audience that 2011 would be better than 2009 but still not great.  "Conclusion: recovery in Greater Phoenix will be painfully slow," he said.

Then came Arizona Next 2040, "Building a Competitive Arizona Economy with Legacy Projects" over lunch where a panel outlined the "game-changing projects that will shape Arizona's future for decades" (at the modest price of $25 billion or so).

Interestingly, the underlying theme was largely the same: Arizona needs to compete to attract businesses, investments, jobs, and residents. Yet as ecn101 has often pointed out, simply saying that Arizona should be more competitive is vastly easier (quite easy, to be certain) than actually making policy (or not) to accomplish that goal.  We have to remember, of course, that every other state in the U.S. and most other countries as well would like to beat out Arizona for those businesses, investments, jobs, and residents.

I've written often about the general strategies that I think Arizona must employ in order to compete globally: high-quality infrastructure, top-notch education (at all levels), and quality-of-life elements that attract residents.  Michael Bidwell, chairman of the Arizona Cardinals and of the Greater Phoenix Economic Development Council, said, "I believe the [states] with the game plan are going to be the ones that end up being the winners." 

Bidwell and the other speakers focused on the infrastructure aspect (which is clearly critical, though education and quality of life are vital, too).  They talked about developing a new set of "legacy" projects that would give Arizona the ability to compete in the global marketplace for decades to come.  They likened the projects to the Central Arizona Project or the Salt River Project, which both were first suggested in the early part of the 20th century and now are essential in supplying water to the millions of residents in Central Arizona.

The projects the speakers mentioned (with the $25 billion tag) include:

  • A new highway, Interstate 11, which would run from I-10 south of Phoenix to Las Vegas.
  • A high-speed commuter-rail system connecting Phoenix with Las Vegas and Los Angeles.
  • An inland port in the Phoenix area to turn Arizona into a major North American freight-distribution center (already a large percentage of the freight that goes through the Los Angeles port travels through Phoenix).
  • A transportation "spine" for the Sun Corridor - the megapolitan area stretching from Yavapai County nearly to Mexico that planners foresee in the coming decades.

A critic might balk at the $25 billion price tag but every dollar we spend on boosting the state's competitiveness holds the hope for more than a dollar gained when investments, businesses, jobs, and residents come here.  That said, we must spend wisely - on those projects that really do hold good promise for attracting the kind of investments that will fuel Arizona's growth in the coming decades.

What's your take?  Write a comment below - no registration required.

Written on Monday, 13 September 2010 10:50 by Gary Yaquinto

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